LEGISLATIVE AND PLANNING HISTORY
On October 2, 1968, Public Law 90-542, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, was approved.
Section 5.(a)(20) of the Act designates the following segment of the Rio Grande for potential addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System:
The Act calls for a study to determine the suitability of the stream for inclusion in the National System, and, if the river meets the established criteria, recommendations pertaining to administration and management of the river and its environment.
Shortly after passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Department of the Interior initiated discussions with the Government of Mexico, through the Department of State. In line with delegated authority, late in 1971, a determination was made by the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IB&WC) and the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, that of the river reach originally stipulated in the Act, only that segment from Alamito Creek to the east boundary of Terrell county appeared to merit consideration for inclusion in the National System.
The river segment between the west boundary of Hudspeth County and Alamito Creek did not merit further consideration because it was essentially dry, and the 5.3-mile segment above and the 13-mile segment below the Rio Conchos were to be relocated in accord with the Boundary Treaty of 1970.
In January, 1972, the Government of Mexico expressed its willingness to cooperate in a study of that section of the Rio Grande between the Chihuahua-Coahuila boundary on the west and the headwaters of Amistad Reservoir on the east. The Government of Mexico also indicated its desire that the study be undertaken by the International Boundary and Water Commission and that the Commission give priority to maintaining the river as a boundary, stabilizing its course, benefiting from its waters, and to the communications needs between the two countries. In mid-1972, the Department of State accepted the limitations on the study as requested by Mexico.
After further discussions with Mexico late in 1972, it was determined that the United States would study the river and determine appropriate actions for its side. Upon completion of the study the report would be transmitted to the Government of Mexico through the International Boundary and Water Commission for review and comment. Areas of common concern for both countries would be explored after such review by Mexico.
In May, 1973, Senators Bentson and Tower of Texas co-sponsored Senate Bill 1790. The purpose of this bill was to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by placing a portion of the Rio Grande in Section 3(a) as a designated component of the National System. The river segment stipulated in the bill extends from the west boundary of Brewster County downstream to Shafter Crossing in Terrell County and would be administered by the Secretary of the Interior. No action was taken on the subject bill.
Interest in protecting free-flowing streams at the State level began in the late 1960's. The Senate Interim Committee on Park and Recreation Facilities, established by the 60th Texas Legislature, recommended the creation of a State system of wild and scenic rivers. Between 1969 and 1973, six bills were introduced to establish such a system; however, none were passed. In 1969, funds were appropriated by the Texas Legislature for a two-year waterway evaluation in order to determine the feasibility of establishing a statewide system of wild and scenic rivers. The responsibility for conducting this study was delegated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The results of the evaluation indicated that a detailed study should be undertaken to survey Texas streams and develop suggestions for the creation of a Texas Waterways System.
This study, Texas Waterways, indicated that a statewide waterways system is a valid concept for Texas, and a program is needed to give certain waterways priority attention to meet the demands of the public.
Interest by conservation groups in Texas and throughout the United States in the preservation of the Rio Grande as a wild and scenic river has been strong. Numerous articles in both State and national publications were published on the Rio Grande and the need for its protection.
A reconnaissance group led by the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation and including representatives of the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department was formed in March, 1973, to conduct the study called for by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Public information meetings were held by the reconnaissance group on December 11 and 12, 1973, in Austin and Alpine, Texas, respectively. The meetings were held in order to acquaint the public with possible alternative actions on the Rio Grande, and to obtain assistance in formulating recommendations concerning such alternatives. The majority of comments received at the Austin meeting favored inclusion of the study segment in the National System under Federal administration.
Comments received at the Alpine meeting indicated a preference for no action. Over 700 individuals provided comments subsequent to the meetings with 36 percent preferring no action, 61 percent requesting inclusion in the National System, and 3 percent favoring protection through State and local actions.
Upon the results of the public meetings, the BOR produced two reports, the "Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River Study" (final) and the "Proposed Inclusion of the Rio Grande in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System," 1976, FES 76-24.
The two reports basically emphasized that the Rio Grande meets established criteria for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and that legislative action is recommended to include a 191.2 segment of the Rio Grande River from River Mile 842.3 to River Mile 651.1 in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System under the administration of the National Park Service.
The Government of Mexico, after review of the study report and discussions through the International Boundary and Water Commission, has no objections to the recommendation of the report and perceives no conflicts with such future developments it may adopt on its side of this segment of the river.
On November 10, 1978, the 95th Congress passed Public Law 95-625, "National Parks and Recreation Act." The Act, among other actions, amended the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to include a segment of the Rio Grande River in Texas.
Last Updated: 27-Apr-2005