With increased flows coming out of Canyon Lake, GBRA officials said on Wednesday it may be weeks before they know what caused a gate on the dam at Lake Dunlap to fail.
At 7:49 a.m. on Tuesday the middle spill gate failed, dumping water downstream at about 11,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), forcing the river and lake levels downstream to rise.
By noon on Tuesday, the water had dropped 6 feet and toward the end of the day, the lake was drained. A second flood gate was opened to help control the release of water.
“These are very old gates … that have been in service for approximately 90 years. We’re in the process of doing some repairs to the gates to most of the gates on our system,” Darel Ball, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority executive manager of operations, said.
GBRA spokesperson Patty Gonzales said recent rains and releases from upstream have put a hold on looking into a cause.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently releasing water from Canyon Lake which prevents GBRA crews from conducting an inspection,” she said, adding crews were not making repairs or performing maintenance on the dam at the time of the gate’s collapse.
The Lake Dunlap hydroelectric dam is one of six operated by GBRA. The others include Lake McQueeney, Meadow Lake, Lake Placid, Lake Gonzales and Lake Wood.
Lake Wood’s dam failed in a similar fashion three years ago.
During Wednesday’s GBRA board meeting Ball showed a brief clip of when the gate burst open and the water rushed through at Lake Dunlap.
Joe Solansky, of Gonzales and the president of the Friends of Lakewood Association, said the failure at Lake Dunlap was a long time coming.
“I know y’all have a huge dilemma here that was in the making. It was just waiting to happen … You’ve got a 90-year-old train with a 90-year-old set of tracks that something is going to derail and it’s happening,” he said. “Of course y’all are living in it and we’re seeing it. Problem is we’re feeling it in Lake Wood. This marks three years that our situation happened.”
Ron Hermes, a GBRA board member representing Guadalupe County, added that it was a scary situation.
“It was pretty scary because we saw what happened in Gonzales. I knew it was going to be a sad day,” Hermes said. “It’s going to be a lot of work. We’re going to have to get a lot of people to come together to fix this.”
Water worries addressed
When the spill gate on Lake Dunlap failed Tuesday morning, one of the biggest concerns was ensuring GBRA’s water customers received their needed water supplies.
“We have several customers and regional water treatment plants that take water out of the lake for their water treatment plants,” Ball said at a meeting on Wednesday. “We provide water to the Guadalupe Valley power plant over in Marion. We deliver water through a canal to our water pump station that provides water to the city of San Marcos Water Treatment Plant.”
The San Marcos Water Treatment Plant services San Marcos, Kyle, Buda and the unincorporated areas along Interstate 35 in the northern part of Hays County.
Water also is delivered to Hays Energy and CRWA Hays-Caldwell Plant, Ball said.
Despite the setback on Tuesday, the supplies were delivered to the customers, Ball said.
“We were able to deliver water to our San Marcos Water Treatment Plant, Hays Energy Plant, CRWA Hays-Caldwell Plant,” Ball said. “As of this morning, we will be having the San Marcos Water Treatment Plant running. We’re treating about 8 to 9 million gallons a day and that’s being delivered to San Marcos. Our temporary solution is applying water to the pump station that is located on the canal. We’re having to install a pump with discharge piping that bypasses the canal system and releases water into the canal.”