Commissioners learn about flood tracking project, Nixon-area museum


Gonzales County Emergency Management will be taking part in a new program through the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Department of Emergency Management that will help track flooding data on the Guadalupe and San Marcos river and their tributaries.

GCEM director Jimmy Harless spoke about the program during a Monday, Aug. 8, meeting of the Gonzales County Commissioners Court. Harless said Gonzales County was asked to take part in testing the application.

“Our first responders will receive an app they will log into and they will take this and go out to sites where they can remember where the water’s edge was in the past during a flood,” Harless said. “They will go out and drop a pin where the water’s edge was at that time, or at least, where they remember it to have been.

“We can come back to my office and, about an hour later, the pin populates information into software I have on my computer that will show us where the water level was in the past. We can then use that to determine what residences, if any, would be located within the flood plain and would be impacted.”

Harless said the county will be testing the application on Thursday, Aug. 11, with help from first responders, including volunteer firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and even DPS troopers.

“Let's say, for example, we have a flood event in the next couple of years,” Harless said. “Our first responders who are out there are law enforcement or EMS or whomever go out, find that high water mark, drop that pin in and I'm able to see real live flooding coverage at the Emergency Management Office as to where the water is. It's also tied into the National Weather Service.

“The program tells me what that water level is as it's coming at us along both the San Marcos and the Guadalupe or their tributaries, and then it also highlights the residences that could be affected by that.  So in my opinion, it's an extremely beneficial product that we could have for Gonzales County.”

The program is being made available to counties free of charge, Harless said.

Commissioners also heard from Donald Hoffman of the Rancho Nixon Historical Association regarding projects that organization has been working on to promote history in the Nixon area.

“That area was the origin point of the American quarter horse, which we can document, and it was the probable origin of the American cowboy in between the Guadalupe and Atascosita rivers,” Hoffman said. “In the area was the largest ranch in colonial Texas with more than 2 million acres — even bigger than the King Ranch. A lot of these things people don’t know, so our historical association has dedicated itself to spreading the news and we hope that you will help us by understanding that it takes money to do these things.”

Hoffman said Rancho Nixon Historical Association has spent nearly $200,000 in private donations that has been used to develop a Rancho Nixon Historical Park, to which he said Precinct 4 Commissioner Collie Boatright Jr. has lent his assistance. Also, there have been some 156 Texas historical markers erected in the area, including 31 which are about famed gunslinger John Wesley Hardin, who practiced law in the Gonzales and Nixon area in the 1890s after he was released from jail.

“What I'm asking you to do is please consider investing in our association, to tell the story that we have to tell,” Hoffman said. “And I think it will be a tremendous economic impact. It'll bring tourists, possibly another motel to the area. The Witte Museum has said they would make us a satellite if we could have a proper facility to display our things, and the John Wesley Hardin family are all behind us, using their records and their research, to do a John Wesley Hardin tour. So, with your help, and your consideration of an investment in our Rancho Nixon Historical Association, we'd like to go forward with a museum that would be a satellite of the Witte Museum.”

Hoffman said there are plans to do “two large entrance monuments, along with other things that we want to do, to track tourism and to tell the history of Gonzales.” He showed members of the court renderings of what the monuments would look like.

“We're all part of this thing together,” Hoffman said. “I know that you handle millions of dollars in this commissioner's court. I would think that you could hopefully find some money to invest in a project that would be of great economic importance to our area and would have an impact on the whole county.”