Seguin Gazette managing editor Felicia Frazar and I were talking shortly after the spill gate failed at Lake Dunlap.
We were sketching out the plan on how to cover a story that both the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung and Gazette could use when I said something that has since been proven true.
“This will really matter when we’re talking about McQueeney and Placid.”
That’s not to say that the problems experienced by the people around Dunlap weren’t important — it just meant they were unlikely to move the needle.
That’s not a good thing, but it was a true thing. The best example of that fact is Lake Wood in Gonzales County, which has sat empty for three years now.
People down there were just as passionate and just as protective of their lake as anyone else. It just didn’t do them any good.
Dunlap was in a little stronger position, but it likely would have been a slog to get anything done.
But then the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority pulled the plug on the entire hydroelectric lake system — and kicked the hell out of a hornets nest.
These hornets have lots of money and lots of powerful friends.
That changes the game.
Again, that’s not necessarily a good thing, but it’s a true thing.
I think if we’re going to have a genuine and honest discussion about this, we shouldn’t hesitate to acknowledge the reality here.
If those who lived around the lakes were impoverished people lacking connections to money and power, it’s highly unlikely we would be having the discussion that we are.
We’ve watched situations like this unfold time and again throughout history.
Those with the ability to bend the circumstances to their will get the course of railroads, highways and rivers changed. There are plenty of lakes in Texas with what were once communities lurking at the bottom of them.
Which all goes to say that I’m confident the lake situation will be resolved.
There are too many people who have vacation homes and retirement homes along that stretch for this to be the end game.
There are too many lawyers, too much money and too much power involved here for nothing to budge.
No, the question for me is not whether there will be a solution, but what shape it will take.
If the property owners around the lakes want to form individual taxing districts — and many of them are — to help repair the dams and maintain them, then that’s a solution that most people can support.
And if the river authority is unwilling or unable to come to an agreement that would allow them to go forward, then the state should step in to make it a reality.
I am not one of these people who believes that GBRA is statutorily required to keep the lake in the back yards of wealthy people.
And no, not everyone who lives along the lakes is wealthy, but a lot of them are. Or, again, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
GBRA is in the hydroelectric business, which is no longer profitable. Maintaining a recreational lake generates no income for the authority, therefore it has no financial interest in doing that.
But property owners who live along the lakes do — both for quality of life and their property values, which act as tangible investment vehicles for many of them.
It just makes logical sense for them to take the reins and be given the ability to control their own destiny.
And there should be a way to navigate the authority’s concern over safety without having to drain the lakes in the interim.
There’s a solution out there and my hope is that it involves preserving and protecting the lakes for the economics, the environment and the culture that they’ve fostered over decades.
That they add value is an inescapable fact. The only question is who will pay the price to keep it in the future.