Construction workers walk along the banks of the San Antonio River as the level has been receded for the project.
Crew members observe the San Antonio River as it is drained for work on the San Pedro Creek. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Crews have dropped water levels on a stretch of the San Antonio River as they install equipment that will pump water from the river into the San Pedro Creek.

Starting early Tuesday, workers with the City and the San Antonio River Authority began partially draining the river downstream of Nueva Street by lowering flood gates at South Alamo Street, said Abigail Bush, engineer and project manager with the River Authority.

“Basically, what we started doing [at] about 6:30 this morning is slowly lowering the gate,” she said. “That way we’re not doing undue damage to the area south of Alamo Street where we have our kayak chutes.”

The South Channel, which winds through the King William Reach, was drained to where about two feet of water remained in the bottom of the channel so construction contractors could install a water line and pump station near Arsenal Street. That line will eventually send water from the river to San Pedro Creek, where it can be used for irrigation and to keep water flowing during dry times.

The work is part of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, an effort to convert the river’s largest downtown tributary stream from a concrete channel to a linear park with natural habitat.

Construction of phase one of the San Pedro Creek Restoration Project.
Construction progresses on Phase 1 of the San Pedro Creek Restoration Project in October 2016. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

When complete, the 6-inch-diameter line will deliver water from the river to San Pedro Creek at El Paso Street, Bush said.

To help safeguard native fish while the water level is down, a crew of biologists with the River Authority is working near Nueva Street to capture fish and move them downstream. They’ll use electrical probes and nets to temporarily stun and scoop up the fish, which can be returned to the river farther downstream.

In such an urban section of the river, River Authority biologists said they mostly expect to find invasive species like tilapia and suckermouth catfish.

The permits for construction are good for two weeks, Bush said, but crews could end up completing the work by the end of this week, depending on the weather.

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.