Misery may love company but residents and frequenters of Lake Dunlap feel nothing but empathy for their neighbors about to lose their own lakes.
With the news Thursday that the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority will be systematically draining its remaining lakes over the month of September, those who live on the shores of Lake Dunlap are sympathizing with the dwellers of Gonzalez, Placid, Meadow and McQueeney lakes
“I’m very sorry to hear the sad news,” said J. Harmon, president of the Preserve Lake Dunlap Association. “We’ve been dealing with this three months since our own gates broke. I feel for my neighbors below me, it’s devastating.”
The news does not come as a surprise at all, Harmon said, but still is unfortunate.
“I think we all knew it was imminent because of the dams all being 90 years old, but that still doesn’t make it easier,” Harmon said. “It’s going to change everyone’s way of life, as it has ours for three months and it’s going to affect the county, and county’s taxes and school taxes, and the economy and local businesses.”
Chris Varni, a Lake Dunlap resident, said he was disappointed to hear the news Thursday, as he’s been going to Lake Placid after losing Lake Dunlap.
“It doesn’t look good,” Varni said. “What happened with Lake Dunlap was the hinges were stressed, so what they’re probably going to do is if they find that all the dams are stressed — they’ll probably leave it empty.”
Folks along the shores of Lake Gonzalez, Lake Placid, Lake McQueeney and Meadow Lake will likely have to deal with the same issues those along Lake Dunlap have been handling, said Ryan “Rhino” Haecker, a resident of Lake Dunlap and a river-fishing guide.
“Now the people along the other lakes will experience some sort of loss just like we have,” Haecker said. “I think it’s just the beginning of more to come.”
Haecker said his own boat is still hanging 13 feet in the air above Lake Dunlap’s empty shores, and he’s had to switch his hunting-fishing guide business to focus more on the hunting.
“We’ve heard so many different stories, no one knows what is going to happen — there’s so much up in the air still,” Haecker said. “That’s another thing, no one knows what to do or where to go.”
A worry for many residents along the shores of the other lakes will be if they’ll ever get their lakes back, Varni said.
“If the hinges aren’t stressed, they’ll want an engineering firm to put a stamp on it, and if they are stressed, they’ll need to do construction on them,” Varni said. “No (firm) is going to want to do that, so it doesn’t look good for the lakes, for the homeowners — for anybody.”
The engineering firms won’t want to risk being liable if another dam does break, Varni explained. Without these stamps, it could take years for the lakes to regain their shores.
“Meanwhile the PLDA went to (the Texas) congress to try to get Lake Dunlap’s dam rebuilt, and they didn’t want to have anything to do with it,” Varni said. “So it doesn’t look like we’re going to have any local lakes for a long while.”
Harmon said he wouldn’t wish the problems Lake Dunlap residents have experienced on his worst enemy.
“It’s terrible. It’s something we’ve dealt with three months and now to see our neighbors go through it — I know what they’re going to feel, they’ll feel the same pain we feel and I hate that. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” Harmon said.
The PDLA was in Austin Wednesday to try to work with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on getting the Dunlap area made into a Water Control and Improvement District (WCID), Harmon said.
“As a WCID, we’d be able to tax ourselves to hopefully raise the funds to get that dam fixed,” Harmon said. “But it shouldn’t have had to come to this.”
Harmon said he had just one message he hoped to convey to state leaders.
“The great state of Texas, it’s time to step up.”