Fishing & Boating News

"The Death Of An Icon"

by: Ed Snyder, Ed Snyder Outdoors

This image of whisping chemical clouds and poluted air may become the negative image of what Rayburn will become IF we don't act today
Photo by Ed Snyder
(Mar. 12, 2005 - Lake Sam Rayburn, TX) March 15, 2012- Sam Rayburn Chemical Reserve, TX.

With the townships of Etoile, Broaddus, Zavalla, Brookeland, and Sam Rayburn vacated and boarded up for extermination, the cities of San Augustine, Jasper, and Kirbyville became the latest victims of blatant indifference today as they were put on notice of mandatory evacuation when northwest winds began blowing poisonous chemical vapors towards their business and housing districts.

Lake Sam Rayburn, once a strong tourism entity that drew the visitation interests of millions from 38 states and four countries to its pristine waters, suddenly became a sludge pond for Industrial wastes caused by greed. And it only took 10 short years of water downgrades, production upgrades, and increased vapor emissions by the Paper Mill to achieve this. But the blame couldn't be levied on the Mill entirely as the public, who watched the ongoing decay and destruction of Rayburn's 114,000 acres of water become spoiled as a 120,000 acre chemical sludge pond, chose not to fight the Canadian industrial interests that were hell bent on profit margins at the costs of our natural resources. By the year 2009, the uninterested and indifferent attitude of the public finally witnessed the inevitable as the once Texas National Treasure silently seeped into that of a Texas National Disgrace!

FOLKS, although what you've just read isn't exactly a CURRENT AFFAIR, the ongoing evidence of such a disastrous outcome is slowly becoming our prophetic future.


Sam Rayburn Slated for Use as Paper Mill Waste Settling Basin

- Corporate welfare at the public's expense

The EPA's Toxic Release Inventory records document record breaking Lufkin Paper Mill releases of toxic materials to the head waters of Sam Rayburn in 1998 & 1999. In the period beginning in 1998 and ending in 2001 toxic releases by the mill were significantly greater than at any other time in history. In 1998 the mill reported releases of 79,000 lbs of toxic effluent to the waters of Sam Rayburn. Prior to that date the largest reported release was 36,000 lbs – less than half the paper mills reported releases in 1998 & 1999. In the years succeeding 1998 & 1999 the mill operation has been intermittent with diminished toxic releases. Mill operations ceased completely in December of 2003. Concurrent with the record breaking releases of toxic materials the Rayburn Fishery experienced a major fish kill (1998) , a minor fish kill (1999) , and an episode in which approximately 50% of the fish population had extensive open sores & lesions as documented in a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) official investigative report. Aquatic vegetation almost disappeared altogether during this period. Although it is a common opinion that the fish kills were caused by a virus (LMBV) the TPWD report does not identify a specific cause. There are numerous perfectly healthy bass populations that carry the LMBV and they remain healthy until they are exposed to an uncommon stress such as poor water quality. Monthly paper mill discharge records also document an all time high, record breaking, release of dissolved aluminum into the Rayburn headwaters in August 1998, concurrent with the major fish kill. There are those who claim that all these facts do not establish the record toxic releases as a cause for the fish kills and the indisputable decrease in fishery productivity that followed. They are right, the case is not proven, but for sure indisputable data establishes a remarkable set of coincidences that should not ignored and would be powerful admissible evidence in some court proceedings.

The following text was excerpted from a 2/28/05 fishing report authored by Jeff Buchanan, a Sam Rayburn fishing guide. "The fishing on Rayburn has been some of the best in years. I just came off of a tournament week fishing in the Everstart tournament. Although I didn't make the top 10 cut to fish the last two days, I caught at least 20 keepers per day. The weigh-in broke EverStart records, and it was hard to believe that there were so many 13-17 pound stringers. It took almost an 18 pound average per day to make the top 10 cut, which is huge. So the outlook for the spring is great and Rayburn looks to have an incredible year. I have had several customers catching 10 pounders and one fisherman that bought my Spring Insider's Map caught a 12-8 on one of the spots on the map. We are really excited about what is happening on Big Sam."

The following text was excerpted from an article on the EverStart tournament authored by Matt Williams as published in the Lufkin Daily News on 2/27/05. "EverStart staff witnessed a record 3 hour 15 minute long weigh-in on day one after the tournament field bombarded them with 172 limits. " "Our tournament director Charles Jones said it was the most amazing weigh-in he has ever seen"", said Chris Eubanks, managing editor for the FLW outdoors magazine. He said the field easily weighed 50-60 bass between 6 & 7 Lbs on the first day alone." …..

There have been more five fish bags weighed in with weight exceeding 20lbs during this one EverStart tournament than the entire yearly totals weighed in during all tournaments in 99 - following the 98 fish kill. The first day of this tournament there were five bags weighing more than 20 lbs and numerous bags weighed in with weights between 19 & 20 lbs. There were only six in 99 (following the 98 kill) and 58 and 54 in the two years preceding the fish kill.

With consideration of the remarkable recovery of the Rayburn fishery as touched on above and the corresponding reduction of toxic paper mill releases, rational logic would conclude that there is a correlation between toxic mill releases and the recreational value of Sam Rayburn. Again, there those who will deny that there is a correlation - very much like an ostrich who sticks his head in the sand to avoid danger.

The Texas environmental regulatory agency (TCEQ) released their responses to comments on the Lufkin paper mills waste water permit that were submitted in September, 2002 on February 24, 2005 and has graciously allowed the public 30 days to respond. Note that TCEQ took 28 months to prepare their responses. The public gets 30 days. A few of the many contentious issues follow. The TCEQ response establishes that they intend to approve the mill waste water permit that allows virtually unlimited discharges of dissolved aluminum, and dissolved oxygen limits that are at odds with an EPA administrative order. The TCEQ response ignores the fact that run-off into Rayburn and on to adjacent properties is occurring from an, unlicensed and unlined, land-fill that has received treatment plant sludges and other harmful materials every since the plant began operations in the 1940's. TCEQ has allowed the plant to operate this land fill to operate without permit, even though they aware that toxic material is disposed of therein. Run-off from this land fill winds up in Sam Rayburn and adjacent down slope properties.

The City of Jasper and the Jasper County economy is based upon a healthy Rayburn fishery. I look forward to the day that the state, city & county powers recognize that the growth Lufkin and near by counties are experiencing is primarily attributable to consumer related businesses and not industry. The consumers are made up in large part of people attracted to the area by recreational opportunities and Sam Rayburn is a major attraction. Even so, the powers that be not only look the other way when evidence of harm to Rayburn is made available, they have the audacity to use tax money to promote & subsidize an industry that will undoubtedly cause harm to the Golden Goose (Big Sam) largely responsible for the growth that Lufkin is experiencing - as made evident by the record breaking sales tax receipts. Based on the Lufkin Daily News they will not even disclose the amount of tax payer's money being offered as incentives to the largest paper industry in the world. Moreover the mill advocates have not disclosed the dollar value of the 10 year tax abatement that is being offered as an incentive to reopen the mill. The prevailing attitude seems to be such that an ordinary citizen doesn't have a need to know what the tax abatements and outright grants being offered are costing the tax payers.

Evidently our officials have no concern over the use of Sam Rayburn as a settling basin for paper mill waste. Welfare for Abitibi, Inc., a Canadian Corporation, is not favored by a large segment of the population yet that is exactly what is being promoted by Texas, the City of Lufkin, and Angelina County.

For more information contact Walter West – Sam Rayburn Friends - 295 Paradise Drive, Zavalla, Tx 75980 -(936)- 897-2587-

A Petition is being circulated by "The Friends of Sam Rayburn" to help thwart the negative impact of corporate greed and indifference. The Petition must be finished by March 26, of 2005. So please read and if you want to help save Sam Rayburn Reservoir from becoming the Rayburn Chemical Reserve, please sign in with your name- address- and date- then e-mail to and your personal concerns will be recorded on the petition, but please hurry!!

Petition For Sam Rayburn Reservoir & Region Protection

The undersigned respectfully request the Texas Commission on Enviornmental Quality (TCEQ) to reconsider the planned revisions to the Lufkin Paper Mill waste water permit limits. We request that the TCEQ conduct a hearing in the Rayburn Community to address issues important to the region.

TCEQ has ignored important toxicity test results that doccument frequently occurring toxic conditions caused by the then existing combination (synergistic effect) of chemicals in the paper mill effluent. The proposed unlimited discharges of aluminum are improperly based on the effects of dissolved aluminum alone, without consideration of the other effluent constituents.

We recommend that the EPA/TCEQ require the mill operators to install a continuously recording dissolved oxygen (DO) monitoring system in the field at locations above and below Paper Mill Creek that is capable of monitoring dissolved oxygen at surface, mid-depths, and at full depth and enforce the maintenance of dissolved oxygen commensurate with the proper High Aquatic Life Classification required by the Clean Water Act.

We recommend the EPA/TCEQ require the mill operators to perform chronic ambient toxicity tests during each period that the paper mill discharges are in excess of the daily average permitted volume and take action that prevents toxic conditions from occurring in Sam Rayburn headwaters.

NAME:_____________________ADDRESS:______________________DATE: / / 05

Please e-mail your concerns to