“I Wouldn’t Wish This on My Worst Enemy”
“I’m sorry, and I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”
This was J Harmon’s reaction to this morning’s announcement by Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority that it is draining all of its Guadalupe Valley lakes beginning on Sept. 16.
Dunlap heads the Preserve Lake Dunlap Association (PLDA), which represents homeowners of approximately $1 billion worth of lakeside property whose values fell by 50 percent after a catastrophic failure drained the lake on May 14.
But he’s fighting back. After meetings with state and local officials, including Texas Sen. Donna Campbell, Texas Rep. John Kuempel, Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher, Comal County Judge Sherman Krause and New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel, he is spearheading a measure to create a separate taxing authority for approximately 500 lakefront property owners that would finance $30 million to repair Lake Dunlap’s dam. Taxes would be based per lineal foot of waterfront property.
Today at 2:30 p.m. he will meet with GBRA General Manager Kevin Patteson to discuss this proposal.
Harmon said Canyon Lake residents are lucky because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which is federally funded — is different from GBRA lakes, which rely on state funding.
The State of Texas can’t help, he said.
Yesterday, he was up in Austin meeting with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which he describes as GBRA’s “boss,” to discuss his plans for a water-control improvement district.
Under terms of his proposal, GBRA’s board of directors would need to approve any sale of property. Harmon said GBRA has offered to transfer to the district for $1.
Meanwhile, he warned school districts in Guadalupe Valley lake areas will be devastated and county roads and bridges will take an immediate hit by reduced tax revenues.
Despite the financial havoc, GBRA’s spillgate failure wreaked on Lake Dunlap residents, he said neither the governor nor lieutenant governor have driven down from Austin to meet with beleaguered property owners.
“Your biggest investment in your whole life is going to be the home that you live in, and when it drops 50 percent that is your 401k and retirement. You’ve saved every dollar you had to be able to afford something like this and now it’s taken away. I call that devastating.”
Here is the original statement issued by PLDA on June 20:
“The Preserve Lake Dunlap Association (plda.org), in collaboration with local government agencies and local political leaders, has been working to locate funds that can be allocated to repairing our dam since the day the dam broke on May 14, 2019. Unfortunately, to date, all the many avenues that these groups have pursued in the search for help — at the federal, state, and local levels, including the legislature, FEMA, local government, disaster and economic relief and more — have turned out to be dead ends for a variety of reasons related to the special nature of this dam and its particular form of demise.
“The consensus is that the possibilities for government aid will likely diminish even further as the dam failure moves from the public’s recent memory. At this point, there seems to be nowhere we can turn.
“Thanks to the hard work of our local state representatives, State Senator Donna Campbell and State Representative John Kuempel, as well as Guadalupe County Judge, Kyle Kutscher, along with the PLDA board, there is, at last, some good news.
“A plan for the waterfront property owners to take over control of the dam via the creation of a water district has been proposed and was shared last night with members in attendance at the PLDA monthly board meeting. Essentially, this plan has the lakefront owners, as the ones most affected by this, to now step up and fix it ourselves. The goals of the plan are straightforward:
- To restore and preserve the value of the waterfront property along the shores of Lake Dunlap.
- To restore the economic viability of businesses that support recreation on Lake Dunlap.
- To ensure that the dam is repaired in a way that preserves the legacy of Lake Dunlap for our families and future property owners for generations to come.
“The fact is that unless we come together with one mind, determined to create a solution where none currently exists, the lake is going to stay the way it is, and in time, few will remember the quality of life we enjoyed here. This proposal is currently the only viable solution on the table anywhere, and it gives the lakefront property owners a direct say in the operation and maintenance of the dam.
“The essence of the plan is to create a water district under the authority of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). You can learn more about water boards and what they do at https://www.tceq.texas.gov/waterdistricts. The entities creating the district would be the PLDA, the GBRA, and Guadalupe County, but the district would be under the control of the lakefront property owners via a board of directors. The district would actually own the dam, which the GBRA has offered to transfer to the district for one dollar.
“It is too soon in the process to know the final numbers, but our initial plans indicate that an assessment of $6-8 a linear foot of lakefront per year for 30 years would do the job, and then, of course, the assessments would drop considerably. To help keep the assessments low, our partners, the GBRA and Guadalupe County would make significant investments as well.
“There is still a great deal of work to be done, and currently this is just a proposal, but the PLDA Board endorsed it last night in their meeting. More than 100 members of the PLDA were in attendance, as well as the PLDA board.
“As soon as the details are hammered out, and we have formal commitments from the partners, we will plan another public meeting for the lakefront property owners to present the plan, answer the many questions we know will need to be addressed and to continue to preserve the transparency we have been encouraging throughout these challenging times.
“Please continue to look to the PLDA as the best source for news as this proposal makes its way forward in the coming days and weeks.”