‘Can ban’ fight still going on in New Braunfels

Comal River in New Braunfels on July 1, 2016. (KXAN Photo/Sean Farrar)
People tubing and soaking in the sun on the Comal River in New Braunfels on July 1, 2016. (KXAN Photo/Sean Farrar)

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (KXAN) — The fight over whether cans should be allowed on rivers in New Braunfels is still being debated in the court system. Last week, the Third Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city of New Braunfels, stating the district court “lacked subject-matter jurisdiction” over the city’s claims. The state appeals court reversed the lower court’s 2014 ruling that determined the city’s “can ban” was unconstitutional. 

In his 2014 ruling, Judge Don Burgess declared that the disposable container ordinance, as well as part of the ordinance that limits the size of coolers, were both unconstitutional. He also said the city was “illegally expending taxpayer funds to enforce the Ordinances.”

In 2012, New Braunfels implemented an ordinance where tubers on the Comal and Guadalupe River were not allowed to bring any disposable containers, such as beer/soda cans, plastic baggies and water bottles on the river. The plaintiffs (various tubing outfitters and tourism groups) in the case believed the ordinance had a negative impact on their businesses.

Since the appellate process is still ongoing, the city says there are no immediate changes to the river rules. Nothing will change for the Memorial Day weekend and cans will still be allowed.

The New Braunfels City Council will get an update from its legal counsel on what the ruling entails at Monday night’s meeting. A city spokesperson says after that report, the city council will have some time to consider the next steps concerning the ordinance.

“Rest assured that the City will provide advanced notice to the public, if/when the legal process concludes and enforcement of the ordinance is allowed,” said New Braunfels spokesperson Sheri Masterson. “We invite everyone to come and enjoy the rivers and make some great family memories in our community!”

When the “can ban” was overturned in 2014, city officials said they saw a sharp increase in trash and litter in the Comal and New Braunfels Rivers. Litter reflects the amount of garbage that was removed from the ground, in trees, in the water, or otherwise not disposed of properly. The Scuba litter listed below is what is pulled from the Comal River alone. The city says there was a 400 percent increase, year-to-year, in trash collected from the two rivers the summer cans were allowed back onto the rivers.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Above Water Litter 31,665 lbs. 7,742 lbs. 12,753 lbs. 23,954 lbs. 26,854 lbs.  29,361 lbs.
Scuba Litter 72,778 lbs. 820 lbs. 1,225 lbs. 4,059 lbs. 3,928 lbs.  4,255 lbs.
Total Litter 104,443 lbs. 8,562 lbs. 13,798 lbs. 28,013 lbs. 30,512 lbs. 33,616 lbs.

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