Injunction Halts Draining of GBRA Lakes
Caving to legal pressure by Guadalupe Valley waterfront property owners, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) announced today it will not drain Lakes Gonzales, Meadow, Placid and McQueeney for at least 12 months in order to give experts more time to take a closer look at the aging dams it considers “compromised,” unsafe and unrepairable.
Under terms of a temporary injunction reached between attorneys for two property owner groups and the GBRA, all parties will work to identify a safe solution and provide funding for replacing the dams, GBRA said in a statement issued to media.
Dewatering of Lake Gonzales was set to begin today, but lawsuits filed on Sept. 5 by Houston attorney Douglas Sutter and San Antonio lawyer Ricardo Cedillo halted the GBRA’s immediate plans, giving the agency 14 days to respond to a restraining order.
Sutter, who represents 250 landowners with waterfront properties adjacent to the Guadalupe River, argued in court filings that the destruction of six dams/levees at issue and the de-watering of the remaining four reservoirs would “severely and irreparably” damage his clients and would “have a tremendous economic effect on the businesses located in these counties as well as the taxing authorities located therein.”
In August, GBRA said a catastrophic spillgate failure that drained Lake Dunlap on May 14 left it with no other choice than to drain all of its Guadalupe Valley lakes because their hydroelectric dams — at 90 years or older — have reached the end of their useful lives and needed to be replaced.
In the statement it issued today, GBRA said the agreement with property owners ensures public safety while allowing it to work collaboratively with key stakeholders.
“This temporary injunction will allow all parties to continue to work together to identify a solution and funding for the necessary replacement of the dams,” GBRA said. “While GBRA will work closely with law enforcement officials to enforce activity restrictions, is of the utmost importance that the community adhere to the limitations and continue to respect all restrictions until a long-term solution can be reached.”
As part of the settlement, a panel of three experts will be appointed to decide what, if any, areas of each lake would be safe for activity given the compromised nature of the dams.
GBRA and the plaintiffs will each appoint an expert to the panel. These experts will select a third-party expert. The group’s immediate responsibility is to determine, within 30 to 60 days, whether any of the current restriction zones around these lakes are safe for activity.
The lakes will be closed to all activity beginning Thursday, Sept. 19.
GBRA owns and operates the six hydroelectric dams along the Guadalupe River that create the Guadalupe Valley hydroelectric system. It took ownership of the dams in the 1960s and has maintained them for more than 55 years.
“The Hard Work Is About to Begin”
Lindsey Gillum, a Lake McQueeney homeowner and member of the Friends of Lake McQueeney, said the settlement brings all sides to the table.
“Today’s settlement protects our community and economy, and will bring all sides to the table to find meaningful, long-term solutions to save our lakes,” she said. “A team of experts will tackle safety issues and develop zones where recreational activities will remain permissible. It will take a tremendous effort to establish Water Control and Improvement Districts (WCIDs) to create sustainable solutions for lake infrastructure. The hard work is about to begin. This settlement would not have been possible without the support of our community, our dedicated legislators, our county judge and attorney, our educators, our moral and financial support, and the leadership at GBRA.”