First step taken in Neches River preservation

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 10:18pm

Dr. Michael Nanks is a dentist in Jacksonville...he's also the co-chairman of "Friends of the Neches River."

Recently they helped start the Neches River Wildlife Refuge -- protecting 32 miles of it.

Banks says Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's new Upper Neches Wild and Scenic River Study Act will do much more than that if passed.

"It would protect a 225 mile segment of the Neches River from Lake Palestine down to B.A. Stienhagen Reservoir," Banks said.

"What it would do is...not only would it protect this river and keep it the way it is would protect the private land owners.  Because the biggest threat they have to losing their land is condemnation for a reservoir.  And so the land owners up and down the river would lose their land but this would stop that," Banks said.

Dr. Banks says if the bill goes through, the government will study the stretch of river to see if it qualifies to be become a "Wild and Scenic River."  He says there are only about 200 of them in the United States.

And in Texas, a portion of the Rio Grande is the only other river designated wild and scenic.

So Dr. Banks says East Texas tourisum would increase.

Richard Saunders has more than 200 acres of property right next to the Neches River that's been in his family since 1852.

Saunders tells KETK they've prayed for something like this new bill to happen.

"Being in the 5th generation of my family to be here, I have a huge obligation or at least I feel compelled to pass this on to my children.  And I would hope that they feel the same way.  And I can tell you they do," Saunders said.

Dr. Banks says several years ago, the Texas Water Development Board and the City of Dallas tried to take water from the Neches and they weren't succesful -- this bill could help stop those sorts of attempts.

He says if passed, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior would study the river for a few years to determine if it's eligible.

Then another bill will have to go through to make the designation.

So it may be a little while, but Banks says they are very happy the first step has been taken.

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