Lake McQueeney

A group of children sit on the edge of the dock waiting for their turn behind a boat on Lake McQueeney, on July 5, 2017.

Property owners who live along and around lakes the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority plans to drain later this month took legal action Thursday to stop the dewatering.

People from all six of the lakes in GBRA’s Guadalupe Valley system are named as plaintiffs in the two legal filings, said Bob Spalten, president of the Friends of Lake McQueeney lake association. Spalten said he is not a plaintiff in either legal action, but is a concerned resident and directly related as president of the lake association.

“We need to stop the dewatering of the lake until we have a plan in place to replace the dam, etc.,” he said. “Depending on what type of gate is used is going to determine how long the construction period will be. Our whole point of stopping this is we want to make the dewatering period as short as possible.”

Attorneys said they filed a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order request Thursday in a Guadalupe County court. One has 10 plaintiffs, five from the Lake McQueeney area and another five from Lake Placid, Spalten said. Attorney Ricardo Cedillo of San Antonio filed that suit, Spalten said.

Attorney Douglas Sutter filed the application for a restraining order with nearly 300 plaintiffs.

The petition and application for injunctive relief Cedillo filed named the 10 McQueeney and Placid residents as the plantiffs.

It names Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority as the defendant and states that the plaintiffs “collectively seek monetary relief” of more than $1 million. However, it’s not about the money, Cedillo said.

“There is a monetary damage component to my claim, but that is not why I filed the lawsuit,” he said. “The lawsuit is filed to stop the draining of the lakes. I point out the monetary damages because if the lake isn’t drained, then I can avoid those money damages.”

As a point of law, he has to point to a reason for requesting the injunction, Cedillo said. Draining the lakes will cause his client’s property values to plummet, which creates a hardship for the clients, he said.

The hardship — damaged property values — only exists if GBRA drains the lakes, Cedillo said. So, to stop the drain and the hardship, he is requesting a judge step in.

“If my clients wanted money damages, they’d let them drain the lakes,” Cedillo said. “That’s not what we want. We want the lakes not to be drained because if they do, it has a tremendous impact on our property value. It has tremendous economic impact on the city of Seguin. It has tremendous economic impact on your school districts.

“It affects the entire community and the way of life you guys have in the city of Seguin. That’s why we want to stop the lakes from being drained.”

Sutter could not be reached for comment.

The petition he filed, though, lists Jimmy and Cheryl Williams et al. as plaintiffs. The others amount to a list of upwards of 295 people seeking a restraining order against the river authority.

Defendants are listed as GBRA’s administration and the board of directors.

The plaintiffs’ requests for an injunction against the defendants are “based upon their intentional failures to perform their statutorily imposed duties and their intentional actions outside of their statutory duties, considering the factual circumstances of this case,” according to the legal filing.

GBRA’s actions resulted in loss to his clients by failing to repair, maintain or replace dam infrastructure, Sutter wrote in the court document.

What the plaintiffs want is to see that “GBRA be immediately enjoined from dewatering the McQueeney, Placid, Meadow and Gonzales reservoirs until GBRA produces (1) a detailed report from an independent and licensed civil engineering firm which provides specific and valid scientific reasons for such action; (2) a ‘wet-lands’ study prepared by an independent experienced, licensed engineer and licensed attorney regarding this subject and whether the reservoirs can be dewatered without violating applicable law,” among other things, Sutter wrote.

Both lawyers are seeking to halt GBRA in its plans to begin draining its remaining four lakes in its hydroelectric system starting Sept. 16.

The river authority has said emptying the lakes is necessary for safety reasons. The plan is to start with Lake Gonzales, then move to Meadow Lake, followed by Lake Placid and end with the dewatering of Lake McQueeney.

Officials have said each lake will take about three days to empty and all should be drained by the end of this month.

Safety concerns heightened after a spill gate failure in 2016 on Lake Wood and one in May at Lake Dunlap, Patteson said.

Legal action will not stop the authority from carrying out its plan, Patteson said in a written statement released Thursday afternoon.

“Despite increased warnings and publicity about the danger of recreating around the aging dams, we have video and photographs — taken as recently as this week — of citizens continuing to disregard warning signs and risk their lives,” he said. “Alerts sound, danger signs are posted, and they continue to be ignored. GBRA stands by its decision to move forward with the dewatering based on the multiple third-party engineer studies that have deemed the aging dams as ‘unacceptable for continued use.’”

Residents still hope for the best. They don’t want to see the lakes go and are prepared to fight longer, if necessary, to get GBRA to reverse course.

“Hopefully we’re successful,” Spalten said. “We’ll still keep on fighting. You can go look at Lake Dunlap and see what happens when the lake is drained. Cypress trees are dying, people’s wells are going dry. It causes quite a bit of damage when the lake goes dry.”

Dalondo Moultrie is the assistant managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at dalondo.moultrie@seguingazette.com .

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