An attorney who has filed suit against the local river authority will get information about the lakes and dams in the system, but a visiting judge drew the line there, turning down other requests Tuesday morning.
The decision came after the latest hearing in the lawsuit that nearly 300 property owners have filed against the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority.
During the hearing, attorney for the plaintiffs, J. Douglas Sutter, requested visiting Judge Steve Ables, Presiding Judge of the Sixth Administrative Judicial Region, force GBRA to provide him with all of the discovery information he has requested.
Defendants’ attorneys said they have complied with Sutter’s requests and asked the judge to stop opposing counsel from harassing their clients.
Ables told GBRA’s attorneys — Travis Sales and Kevin Jacobs, of Baker Botts — to have its directors and officers provide plaintiffs with all of the documentation Sutter requested regarding the issue at hand, the Guadalupe River Valley hydro-electric dams and the lakes they create. The judge refused to order GBRA to provide information Sutter requested regarding conservation easements involving GBRA directors and other issues.
“I think what the judge was telling us there is we’ve already gone over that at length in the hearing and you have all that information,” Sutter said. “We understand the ruling on that and what he’s told us is if you want to go forward with that and you find some evidence that you want to go forward, you need to come to court first for leave, which is fine, we’re happy to do that.”
He said he got 98% of what he sought in the hearing on his motion to compel.
GBRA produced nearly 60,000 pages of documents related to the subject matter involved in the lawsuit, Sales said. He said the judge granted Sutter’s request on things related to the lawsuit and denied the plaintiffs’ requests for information irrelevant to the legal claims.
Had Sutter gone through the documents provided and not requested extraneous information, Tuesday’s hearing would not have been necessary, Sales said.
“We’ve produced everything about the lakes,” he said. “We’ll produce whatever we have. There’s nothing to hide about the lakes.”
Sutter failed to review all the documents he requested and that were provided, Sales said.
“If he had reviewed it all before he filed the motion, I’m not sure we would’ve had to have gone through this today,” he said. “There was no basis to even have this hearing today.”
The judge gave defendants up to 30 days to provide plaintiffs with the requested discovery information. In the meantime, Sutter said, both sides will get together to schedule depositions to move forward with the lawsuit.
Depositions could begin shortly after the 30-day time limit, Sutter said.
Tuesday’s proceedings were just the latest in a months-long saga that began after two of GBRA’s dams saw spill gate failures and dewatering of the lakes. The spill gates failed due to deteriorating conditions caused by aging, officials have said.
All of the gates are about 90 years old and have rusting and failing parts that could cause dangerous conditions if they were to fail, GBRA General Manager/CEO Kevin Patteson has said. He threatened to dewater all of the lakes before agreements were struck and orders issued to prevent the immediate draining of the lakes.
However, the lawsuit still moves forward in its process as property owners try to compel GBRA to repair/replace the dams and/or spill gates and preserve the property values along and around the lakes.