My River POV: James Sanchez, Riparian Operations Foreman

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Last Updated on January 30, 2024

Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes

The “My River POV” series provides readers the opportunity to learn about the unique insight and experiences of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) staff and their personal connection to the San Antonio River in hopes of inspiring stewardship of area creeks and rivers.

James Sanchez Riparian Operations Foreman

How does your team help to keep the river safe, clean, and enjoyable?

I oversee the Operations and Maintenance of the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River Walk as well as the pathway that runs adjacent to the Brackenridge Park Golf Course along Avenue B, which we call the “Park Reach.”

Our Operations and Maintenance team checks the lights and pathways along the trails, making sure there are no fallen trees or anything else blocking the sidewalk. We also maintain the water features along the river, including those at the Pearl and the waterfalls in the Grotto. If we see anything in the water that’s not supposed to be there, we’ll call the Environmental Science Investigation team.

two riparian technicians pull trash out of river during river draining.

My team also puts up the holiday lights along the Museum Reach, including the giant LED Christmas tree and the Fishing Santa Claus decoration across from Elsewhere. I’m also excited that we are bringing back the River of Lights again this year. The River Authority did a great job finding Mr. and Mrs. Claus—they look so authentic!

River of Lights installation

Left: The 2021 River of Lights Nighttime Kayak Event Right: It takes about six people about 8 hours to set up the giant LED Christmas tree.

Lastly, one of the most important things my team does is to make sure the locks at the AT&T Lock & Dam and the floodgate at Brooklyn Avenue are functioning properly.

The Locks & Dam is very interesting! Can you tell me more about that?

Before the Lock & Dam was completed in May 2009, downtown San Antonio flooded more easily because there was nothing to stop the water. Now the floodgate protects downtown from flooding by releasing the water at a slower rate so that the two floodgates downstream can catch and maintain the water and hold it at a safe level.

River barge full of people

The four lockkeepers work year-round from 6:30am until 10pm, making sure the floodgate functions properly and operating the locks for maintenance barges, charter and tourist boats, and “Lady Eco,” the cleaning barge with the wings and nets on either side.

How can people do their part to keep the San Antonio River safe, clean, and enjoyable?

For people who love to use the Museum Reach of the River Walk, I urge them to dispose of their trash properly. From the bridge near the Hotel Emma up to the turning basin, there are 36 storm drains that empty into the San Antonio River, and these drains can extend from up to one mile away. All the cups, napkins, food waste, plastic wrappers, and bottles from the Pearl and off the streets near Broadway will quickly end up in the San Antonio River after a rainstorm.

When our crew conducts maintenance along the Museum Reach, we see a problem with pet waste. Please pick up your pet’s waste because it will eventually run into the river. Also, please don’t feed the wildlife and waterfowl.


A Great egret hunts along the San Antonio River. Photo Credit: Lee Marlowe

It’s so great when our crew is out working, and people come by and tell them, “Hey, thank y’all very much for what you are doing. The area looks beautiful.” It shows appreciation, and the team loves to hear about the pride the community has for this area. Small comments like that make a big difference in someone’s life.

How did you come to work for the River Authority?

I used to work at Randolph Air Force Base when I met Bobby Guerra, who was working for the River Authority. I was working the back gate, and he had a Boston Red Sox hat on. I told him I couldn’t let him in unless he threw it away! We clicked, and he told me all about the River Authority. I worked in the River Authority’s Utilities department for three years before I joined the Watershed & Parks Operations team in March 2009, two months before the Locks & Dam opened. I wanted to do something different and be closer to the San Antonio River downtown. It’s been awesome to see how far this area has come since 2009.

Flowers along the Museum Reach

The Museum Reach of the San Antonio River Walk.

What made you want to work closer to the river?

When I was growing up in Uvalde, my siblings and I used to go with my dad to the Frio or Nueces River every weekend to go fishing, swimming, and camping. We would go camping with the whole family twice a year on Easter and Labor Day weekends. Those were the two times of the year I really looked forward to. My dad would make menudo over the open fire, and my mom would make beans and grill bacon on the other side. On Sundays, if my dad wasn’t working, we would go to a big swimming hole on the Nueces and barbeque. We’d be out there from dawn until dusk.

Why do you enjoy working for the River Authority?

I love being able to work outside every day and to meet people from all over the world and hear their stories. Also, many people that I work with have been here for 8-10 years or more, and we’re like a family. I love the people that I work with and work for, including the Watershed & Park Operations leadership: Tommy, Matthew, and Kristen. They are supportive and give you the independence to do your job. They understand that mistakes will be made, but that good learning comes from those mistakes.


How can we preserve the river for future generations?

The best thing we can do for future generations is to educate people about how to do their part to take care of the river. For example, when you don’t pick up your dog’s poop, throw trash on the ground, or leave grass clippings in your yard, it eventually ends up in the river. Putting our faces out there and talking to the community helps people to know how individual actions affect the river. Even if you’re a mile from the river, you’re still affecting it. Let’s do something about it now so that, eventually, our kids can swim in it.

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River Reach is a quarterly, 12-page newsletter that is designed to inform the San Antonio River Authority’s constituents about the agency’s many projects, serve as a communication vehicle for the board of directors and foster a sense of unity and identity among the residents of Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties.

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