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GBRA to Drain All Guadalupe Valley Lakes

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GBRA to Drain All Guadalupe Valley Lakes

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Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority experienced a spillgate failure at Lake Dunlap on May 14. Image courtesy of GBRA.

Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) on Sept. 16 will begin systematically draining Lake Gonzales, Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and Lake McQueeney due to safety concerns it announced in a press release issued this morning.

Affected property owners will receive written notice of what GBRA describes as “unpopular decision” but its only option tomorrow, Aug. 16. For more information, visit GVLakes.com.

Canyon Lake, which is under the authority of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Fort Worth District, is not affected by GBRA’s decision.

“Operations of GBRA’s structures below (downstream) Canyon Lake will have no impact on the current operations of the water management at Canyon Lake,” said Clay Church, Public Affairs specialist.

The water conservation-and-reclamation district said it is dewatering these lakes after third-party engineering assessments indicated a drawdown is the only way to ensure the safety of residents and recreationalists in communities surrounding the Guadalupe Valley lakes.

Despite regular maintenance — including significant repairs made to the dams following the floods of 1998 and 2002 — original structural steel components at each of the dams, which are over 90-years-old, are compromised. The hydroelectric dams have now surpassed the end of their useful lives.

“Safety is our top priority,” GBRA General Manager and CEO Kevin Patteson said. “We understand this is an unpopular decision, but one that we feel is unavoidable given the dangers associated with these dams. GBRA is committed to working closely with the lake associations and the community to mitigate the impact of this difficult, but necessary decision.”

A catastrophic spillgate failure drained Lake Dunlap on May 14, sparking outrage from homeowners worried about their property values. However, GBRA said the incident was attributed to an entirely different issue than a 2016 failure at Lake Wood.

GBRA responded to the failure at Lake Dunlap on May 22 by creating restriction zones prohibiting watercraft and recreationalists from swimming, stopping or anchoring in certain areas in lakes Dunlap and Placid, and added signage and buoys along with real-time monitors. Other safety measures have included sirens and public address systems to warn people of these hazards.

However, cameras revealed recreationalists are still operating within these restricted areas as well as on top of the dams. GBRA said this activity has intensified concerns for safety.

GBRA will work with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to devise a dewatering plan that minimizes impacts to the environment, Patteson said.

Dewatering will begin at the southern-most lake, Lake Gonzales, on Sept. 16, and continue upstream to Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and Lake McQueeney.

Drawdowns are expected to take three days per lake. Barring any unforeseen delays, dewatering of all lakes will be completed by the end of September.

Despite regular maintenance – including significant repairs made to the dams following the floods of 1998 and 2002 – an assessment by engineering firm Black & Veatch has indicated the original structural steel components at each of the dams are compromised. Following the spillgate failure at Lake Wood in 2016, Freese and Nichols, Inc. identified the cause of the failure and GBRA began emergency repairs to address this issue at other dams.

Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the dams is a community endeavor, GBRA said in its press release. The public corporation is working in partnership with the Guadalupe Valley Lakes lake associations and affected residents, as well as city and county officials, to determine the best course of action for identifying, funding and completing the necessary replacement of the dams.

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