After taking a little longer to finalize its report, an independent expert panel released the remainder of a safety study on the Guadalupe Valley Lakes.
The IEP delivered its final results Nov. 14 on Lake Gonzales and GBRA Deputy General Manager Jonathan Stinson made a report to the river authority’s board of directors on Wednesday.
“The area upstream of the H-4 (Lake Gonzales Dam) gates impounding Lake Gonzales extending approximately 550 feet up the eastern portion of the reservoir and approximately 800 feet up the western portion of the reservoir is considered a ‘prohibited unsafe zone’ and shall be marked by lines of buoys and signage,” the report reads. “All activities on and in the water shall be prohibited in this zone. Participants in activities in or on Lake Gonzales should be made aware of the possibilities of water levels falling below normal level at rates of up to 0.04 feet per minute and rapidly increasing flow velocities of up to 3 feet per second.”
The report asserts that a single spill-gate failure is the most likely scenario, unlike scenarios of simultaneous failures of multiple spill gates that the river authority had warned the public against.
Danger could be associated with such a failure, the experts wrote. The report designated several prohibited unsafe zones upstream and downstream of dams and gates, and restricted unsafe zones downstream of dams and gates.
The IEP report is part of an agreed-upon temporary injunction that delayed lawsuits between GBRA and plaintiffs who own property along and around the lakes. Plaintiffs and defendants in the lawsuits chose an expert to study the lakes, and the experts chose a third impartial expert to complete the panel.
The experts released the majority of the report in October but needed more time to finalize a portion of the study regarding Lake Gonzales.
That portion of the study is now complete and available for perusal on Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority’s website gvlakes.com.
In Stinson’s report to the board, he provided directors with updated maps updating the unsafe zones throughout the lakes system.
“We will be in the process of working with Gonzales County on signage and enforcement there,” Stinson said. “Related to the independent expert panel report No. 1, which was inclusive of the hydro lakes in Guadalupe County, we are continuing on implementation with the directions from that report that is including the fabrication of 19 signs posting the prohibited and restricted zones and then the placement or reidentification of about 80 buoys. So our staff is in the process of implementing those right now.”
The GBRA had not received the signs but he was hopeful they would be in soon, Stinson told directors.
At a previous board meeting, directors approved staff getting a boat from the Comal County Water Oriented Recreational District for Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office deputies to use for enforcement of the related ordinances banning activities on the lakes. Per Stinson’s report, Guadalupe County officials refused use of the boat, which GBRA already had acquired.
“After some conversations with Guadalupe County, the sheriff and county have decided to pass on the use of the patrol boat that we procured from the WORD district in Comal County and they will continue to utilize their resources,” Stinson said. “So we’ve instructed our control room to continue to just call the Sheriff’s Office for any violations that we see on our cameras within the prohibited zones.”
GBRA staff has alerted sheriff’s deputies of possible rule breakers on the waters since the ordinance was adopted, Stinson said.
Deputies checked out reports of violators but have found most people in compliance of the rules, GCSO Capt. John Koch said.
“We’ve had a few,” Koch said. “I can only think about maybe three or four since the whole thing went into effect. They turned out to be either legitimate or nothing to them.”
County officials discussed the use of the 22-foot Boston Whaler GBRA obtained but determined using it would be a bad idea, Koch said.
“The boat they were going to rent for us, I don’t feel comfortable using,” he said. “That’s a bigger boat and that’s a pretty shallow lake. We’re going to be using our own boats out there.”
Sheriff’s deputies have a boat at their disposal but it had been nonoperational after the summer, Koch said. They got it repaired, had a new motor installed and it’s ready to go, he said.
Deputies will be on the waters of Lake McQueeney, Lake Placid and Meadow Lake, Koch said.
“Throw Dunlap in there,” Koch said. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to get the boat in there. But we’re still going to keep an eye on it.”