Safety is a very real concern but shouldn’t be the only one considered when it comes to decisions pertaining to the remaining Guadalupe Valley dams owned by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, concerned residents said.
Members of several associations, who banded together to help save the four remaining lakes, all agree GBRA should take a step back to consider everything before going through with the authority’s plan to drain Lake McQueeney, Lake Gonzales, Lake Placid and Meadow Lake. At least one such lake association is ready to take legal action.
“We could work with GBRA and perhaps they have a change of heart,” said Kevin Skonnord, president of Citizens United for Lake Placid, a two-year-old lake association that has had some of its members involved in lake preservation issues for longer than three years.
“I believe the (General Manager and CEO) Kevin Patteson made it very clear he believes the right thing to do for safety reasons is to lower the lakes,” Skonnord said. “I believe in the short term, the thing for us to do is try to take legal action to get a court to tell them to leave the lakes up.”
Patteson said more than a week ago — and reaffirmed it again last week at a GBRA board meeting — that the authority plans to begin a draw down of the lakes beginning in the middle of September. GBRA officials have said the draining of the lakes would be temporary though they have provided no time line as to when the lakes would be refilled.
Authority officials have said the lakes would be refilled once spill gates are replaced, and that replacing the gates will cost upwards of $180 million for all six GBRA dams.
Even after hundreds of people voiced their opposition to the plan at the meeting, Patteson said nothing had changed.
GBRA will open the spill gates Sept. 16 at Lake Gonzales to begin draining that body of water. Then Meadow Lake will be dewatered, followed by Lake Placid and culminating near the end of September with the emptying of Lake McQueeney if no delays arise, GBRA said.
The measure is necessary due to concerns that spill gates at the almost 90-year-old dams might fail and endanger residents and visitors around them. Those concerns heightened after a spill gate failure in 2016 on Lake Wood and one in May at Lake Dunlap, Patteson said.
CULP members understand that safety is an issue, and they’re fully prepared to collaborate with GBRA to solve the problems, Skonnord said.
“Due to safety concerns, we would be in favor of the lake being closed for recreational activity,” he said. “Let’s try to find something equally as effective but still keep safety in mind.”
CULP isn’t the only organization or group of citizens watching the situation and offering assistance. There are many.
Meadow Lake Nolte Dam Association became a state-recognized organization about two weeks ago and its members plan to attend their first meeting Saturday, board member Janet Hudson said. Hudson said she worked with GBRA at least 15 years as a liaison between the authority and the community.
Now as a member of MLNDA, she chooses to remain positive that a solution beneficial to all involved can be achieved, Hudson said. The key is everyone taking a step back, getting a hold of the big picture and then putting their heads together to come up with the best answers, she said.
Only once those answers are achieved should action be taken, MLNDA President Jacy Robbins said.
“We believe one of the first things we need to do is develop an economic impact study analysis,” he said.
An environmental impact study also should be completed to help figure out an ultimate goal, Robbins said. Also, someone needs to take a look at GBRA’s plan for replacing the spill gates and determine if a less expensive option would be better suited for the job, Robbins said.
GBRA has much more to consider before dewatering the lakes, he said.
“We still do feel like it’s a little bit in haste,” Robbins said. “That’s something we would like to talk to GBRA about. On that particular part, we don’t see GBRA reversing their decision. More than likely there will have to be an injunction.”
#Save Our Lakes also is a new collection of concerned citizens. The group organized to work in conjunction with other lake associations, volunteer Tess Coody-Anders said.
All involved need to work together to preserve the lakes, she said. That could mean the formation of water control improvement districts to collect taxes for maintenance of the dams, Coody-Anders said.
#Save Our Lakes members want GBRA officials to put a hold on the plan to drain the lakes until everyone can get together and develop a viable long-range plan for repairing and revitalizing the lakes, she said.
“From our standpoint, collectively, what we see is an impact that feels far more urgent and dangerous than the safety concerns that have been presented about the dams by GBRA,” Coody-Anders said. “What we see is an existential threat not to the dams but an existential threat to communities like Seguin that depend on our waterways as a central attraction and as a critical source of tax dollars for our schools and our governance. Not only do these waterways bring in new movers, they bring in new dollars to our businesses in our community and they provide a differentiating characteristic that helps us stand out and compete in our economic development activities.”
Dalondo Moultrie is the assistant managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org .