A state senator is asking the Texas Attorney General to rule on whether the GBRA can fund repairs of its hydroelectric dam system by doing something the agency says it lacks the power to do — collect money from residents along the lakes.
For months, leadership at the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority has said coming up with the funding to replace aging spill gates on the dams the authority owns in the Guadalupe Valley lakes system is all but impossible. The authority is not a taxing agency, has no authority to levy taxes and receives next to no government funding, officials have said.
A Texas state senator is not so sure that’s all true and is looking for answers.
Sen. Charles Perry, of Lubbock — chair of the state’s Water and Rural Affairs Committee — sent a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton asking for clarification on GBRA’s charter and whether the authority is able to tax waterfront property owners on the area lakes.
“Please accept this letter as a formal request for an Attorney General opinion over the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority’s enabling legislation relating to their ability to tax or assert rates on lake front property owners,” Perry wrote. “I appreciate the opportunity to receive insight and clarity on the issue.”
In the letter dated Sept. 26 and addressed to Paxton, Perry wrote that discussion has ensued over how entities such as GBRA can adequately cover costs arising from maintenance of infrastructure like the spill gates the river authority said are corroding and certain to fail on each of its four remaining lakes in the Guadalupe Valley system.
The authority is legally responsible to maintain the infrastructure, Perry wrote. Income from the authority’s water and wastewater contracts is insufficient to cover the costs of operation and maintenance, the letter read.
GBRA’s enabling legislation allows for the authority to establish and collect revenues “to pay the interest on, the principal of and the premium, if any, on all bonds issued under this Act when and as the same shall become due and payable,” the senator wrote in quoting the legislation.
The statute has discrepancies and Perry asked that Paxton provide an opinion to clear up those discrepancies.
“Can the GBRA establish and issue a fee for property owners whose land touches the water resource in order to fund the replacement, operation, and maintenance of the dams located at Lakes Placid, McQueeney, Meadow, Dunlap, Gonzales and Wood,” the letter read. “Can the GBRA establish a taxing district by election for those property owners whose land touches the water resource in order to fund the replacement, operation, and maintenance of the dams located at Lakes Placid, McQueeney, Meadow, Dunlap, Gonzales and Wood?”
Perry was out of the office and unable to be reached Monday for comment.
Officials with the river authority are aware of Perry’s letter to the attorney general. They plan to give the AG’s office the necessary information, Patty Gonzalez, GBRA communications manager, said in a brief statement.
“We are reviewing Senator Perry’s letter and developing a response to the attorney general,” she said.
GBRA General Manager/CEO Kevin Patteson has said spill gates at the dams are in imminent danger of failing causing safety issues for people living along the lakes and those who recreate on them. The structures were built nearly 90 years ago and have outlived their usefulness, officials have said.
In 2016, a spill gate failed at the dam that created Lake Wood causing the body of water to drain. The same occurred in May at Lake Dunlap, which helped lead Patteson to declare all of the lakes unsafe and announce a plan to raise the gates and dewater each lake.
Residents sued before the authority could begin its process to remove the water and both sides came to an agreement to temporarily halt the drain while experts study safety of the dams and lakes. Each of the remaining lakes is closed to recreation activity while the studies commence.