As the deadline loomed for the lakes to temporarily close, some people took the opportunity to enjoy the river, while others worked to get their watercraft out of the river.
Bob Weathers of Laredo said he was shocked to hear he had just 48 hours to get to his second home and remove his boat and jet skis.
“I would have thought they would have given me a little bit more than 48 hours to get my stuff out,” he said.
With the help of some friends, Weathers was able to get his watercraft off Lake Placid, as well as lend a hand to a few others.
“We actually helped five other families take their stuff out today as well,” he said. “I’m sure other people are doing the same thing.”
Property owners along the lakes were removing their boats and jet skis as the six Guadalupe Valley lakes the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority maintains closed today and will be closed for the next 30 to 60 days pending the outcome of a safety study.
For months, the GBRA has said the spill gates on the dams are aged and crumbling, producing safety hazards. The authority announced a decision last month to drawdown each of its remaining lakes to avoid casualties when spill gates fail like they did on Lake Wood in 2016 and Lake Dunlap in May.
Concerned citizens sued to stop the drain.
The attorney’s for Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and hundreds of property owners came to an agreement Monday that halted GBRA’s plan to dewater the lakes. Three experts — one selected by GBRA, one by the property owners and one selected by those hired experts — will conduct the study.
People will be kept off the lakes while the experts study them and the dams that created them. If the experts’ study concludes that there are safe zones where people can recreate on the lakes, that will be allowed but people still will be shunned away from trouble spots until a firm solution is developed on the lakes.
Both sides agreed to work together to come up with an enforceable ordinance for public safety.
“In terms of the ordinance, we will be working with local and state law enforcement on the appropriate language,” GBRA Communications Manager Patty Gonzales said. “We will have it vetted by the county attorney. Then it goes to the GBRA board next week on Sept. 25 for consideration and action.”
County Attorney David Willborn said Tuesday that he was awaiting direction from GBRA.
Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office deputies are ready to enforce whatever ordinance those in charge decide to enact, GCSO Capt. John Koch said.
Koch is the sheriff’s operations captain, which means he oversees the patrol division and investigations. Deputies will patrol Lake McQueeney, Lake Placid and Meadow Lake to keep people safe once they know what restrictions GBRA puts in place, he said.
“We have one boat here at the sheriff’s office,” Koch said. “We’re just going to do our best. We’re not going to come up with a set schedule. We’ll just have to patrol one lake for so long a day and move to the next one unless we’re having a lot of problems on a certain lake and then we’ll concentrate on that lake.”
Specially trained marine safety officers will be on the waters, he said. More information will be available once sheriff’s deputies and GBRA officials sit down to hammer out details, Koch said.
Until then, he thinks the patrols won’t be too taxing on the deputies.
“I would expect the local folks to heed and stay off the lakes. I think maybe we’ll have some folks that haven’t been paying attention, that don’t live in the county who get on the lakes and have to be told what’s going on,” Koch said. “It’s going to be a logistics issue but we’re going to be able to handle it.”
Deputies are adept at providing public safety and patrolling the lakes will be only slightly different than what they do during the busy summer lake season, the captain said. Only now instead of contacting people on the waters and making sure they’re behaving properly, they’ll have a different mission. County law enforcers will get some assistance.
“Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s focus has been and continues to be enforcing and encouraging public safety on the water. Our game wardens will continue to patrol the affected areas, we will emphasize public education to make people aware of the court order, and we will work with local law enforcement entities to assist and support them in promoting public safety,” said Tom Harvey, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department communications division deputy director.
Both agencies will be responsible for keeping people off the closed lakes.
“I think it is totally crazy and so far fetched,” Weathers said of the lakes closing. “Especially having zones on both sides of the river with plenty of room to avoid not being on top of the dams, I think it is totally uncalled for.”
While he didn’t agree with the decision, he was glad that the lakes would remain.
“That our lakes and our beautiful trees that have been here for hundreds of years are going to stay intact, that is what the important part is,” Weathers said.
Seguin resident Brandy Gaspard took the opportunity to launch her kayak and paddle her way upstream from the Lake Placid boat launch.
“We’re trying to enjoy it. Since they said it is closing, we decided to get one more time in,” she said. “I come out quite a bit. I live just right down the road here.”
Much like weathers, Gaspard wasn’t too keen on the idea of the lakes closing, but she is hopeful a viable solution will come from it.
“I think if they can close them to try and come up with a solution that yes they can be fixed without draining them, then I am all for that,” she said. “If they want to close them for 60 days so they can establish that and figure out ways to repair it, then I think that is not a bad idea. It is better than the alternative of draining it, which is just terrible.”