Meadow Lake

Cypress trees grow along the waters edge at Meadow Lake on Aug. 15, 2019.

The visiting judge in the lawsuit against the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority over its plan to dewater the Guadalupe Valley Lakes on Tuesday granted plaintiffs a second temporary restraining order requesting the river authority cease a list of actions.

Steve Ables, Presiding Judge of the Sixth Administrative Judicial Region, granted the request from plaintiffs in Jimmy and Cheryl Williams et al vs. Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and its officers and directors.

In the order, plaintiffs’ attorney Doug Sutter requested GBRA stop selling water at below market rates, cancel plans to build an office facility in New Braunfels, give no more money to nonprofit organizations and more.

“I’m doing it because I want to get money for the dams, to fix the dams,” plaintiff’s attorney Doug Sutter said. “They claim they don’t have money to take care of the Guadalupe River Basin dams and reservoirs but they have money for everything else. How do you claim you don’t have money but you spend millions of dollars and waste millions of dollars on other things?”

Plaintiffs in the case initially filed suit against the defendants to stop GBRA from economically devastating the region with its plan to drain the remaining four lakes in its Guadalupe Valley Lakes system. Two of the six lakes drained when aging spill gates on the dams failed causing the water to empty. It happened in 2016 at Wood Lake and then again in May at Lake Dunlap.

The infrastructure failures occurred because the gates are old and need to be replaced, river authority officials have said. All of the dams are about 90 years old and probably in similar condition, they have said.

However, the river authority has no money to replace the spill gates, GBRA General Manager/CEO Kevin Patteson has said.

“I don’t care what they say, that’s not the truth,” Sutter said. “If you look at their financial statement, you’ll see where the money goes.”

The temporary restraining order Ables signed, he did so without notice or giving the defendants’ attorneys a chance to respond, said Lamont Jefferson, whose firm Jefferson Cano is representing the defendants. He said the order is vague and GBRA officials don’t know exactly what they can and can’t do.

“What we’re concerned about is the extent to which the order prevents us from conducting ongoing business,” Jefferson said. “It’s just not clear. Some of the things, the way it’s described in the order, don’t give us a lot of (direction) in pending contracts, obligations that we must meet, that wouldn’t run afoul of the TRO.”

Ables’ order gives the judge a chance to stop and figure out a next step before putting things back to normal, Jefferson said. The order lasts until a hearing can be held, he said.

Ables scheduled a hearing on the plaintiffs’ request for Tuesday, Nov. 5.

“It’s six days. I don’t know of anything critical that must happen or it’s do or die time between now and the 5th,” Jefferson said. “We will have a chance to fully air it out at that time.”

Ables’ order is preventing the river authority from carrying out its duties, Patty Gonzales, GBRA communications manager, said.

“The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority’s primary purpose is to provide water and wastewater services within its 10-county district,” she said. “The temporary restraining order issued Tuesday, Oct. 29, is not only disappointing, but infringes on GBRA’s ability to keep the public safe by providing clean drinking water and reclamation services.”

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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(7) comments

Ricky Vandersloot

These dams are no needed any more. These are hydro electric dams, which were installed to generate electricity. Too many customers, the city of Seguin included, stopped purchasing electricity from GBRA in favor of buying electricity from SAWS. So, they do not generate positive enough revenue to support them. So, they should be removed. The Guadalupe River should be returned to it's original state.

Ricky Vandersloot

Correction to my previous comment, it is CPS, not SAWS,

Shepard

Conversely Mr. Vandersloot, why not simply skip the gates and move to the cost effective method of spillways, thereby eliminating both the hydroelectric component as well as the expensive repair costs associated with moveable gates?

Eliminating the lakes through removal of the dams is of course feasible, but the economic impact would, as noted before, be swift and harsh. The SISD itself would be forced to make many uncomfortable decisions, especially with addition of debt load over the last decade.

If you are after the return of the river for ecological reasons, then that would be an entirely different issue and, though entirely feasible, would take commitment of both the community and surrounding property owners, especially as your Federal government just dumped millions of taxpayer dollars into raising homes within the floodplain.

guntownuncle

Shepard, there are literally tens of thousands of homes that are planned to be built in area between Seguin, New Braunfels and San Marcos. Figure at least $200,000 per home, average. If the river was allowed to go back to its natural state the school districts are not likely to notice in the least.

Shepard

Please note that the houses you are talking about come with children, the vast majority of those on the river do not. If you take in the average, the river houses are valued between 300,000 and 1,000,000, so the tax payments are 2 to 5 times what you are referring to and they do not bring additions to the school district.

Your example of $200,000 house would net $2,750 in property tax payments (ISD) having 2 school age children at $8594.00 cost per child average, or a total of $17,188. Percentage of total required cost pulled from local property taxes is about 54%, resulting in a gap between that paid and that needed to be $9,282, this not including or taking into consideration the debt accrued when bonds are passed to expand current facilities to accommodate these housing developments and accompanying children.

Conversely, I pay more than $5,000 in ISD property tax and have no children. You get my money ‘for free’.

Let’s all make sure we’re thinking through these issues clearly and looking at everything, not merely that easily noticed.

MLB2019

guntownuncle, and those new houses being built will be sold to people with children which will require more classrooms, more teachers, etc. You can't assume when you are adding housing to a district that the size (and monetary requirements) are going to stay the same - doesn't make sense.

Shepard

In regards to the rapid expansion of housing being built with Seguin, New Braunfels and San Marcos, please remember that there are numerous school districts spread between these areas, but the lakes only affect specific school districts. Match that unbridled and little controlled growth with school districts who have already approached their maximum facility populations and you’ll see the detrimental impact that an immediate property devaluation would have for a period of 5 years of that action.

The lakes serve a purpose beyond merely allowing property enhancements. They provide recreation, water storage and an expansion in the green belt of the river. Granted, a failure by your government to ensure proper stewardship of both the dams and lakes themselves has made this an issue, the overall impact of having the lakes as they are far out ways the adverse.

Though I believe that the path forward is to choose a design which is low cost and functional, i.e. elimination of both the hydroelectric and GBRA access to the water within the lakes, this may not be the best long term answer. Simply, it’s about numbers. How do you both ensure the integrity of the dams whilst providing a reasonable return on the investment? If the lake associations can come up with a ‘lake by lake’ plan, having not become beholden to banks or bond holders, nor burdening the taxpayers unreasonably, then this would be a win for everyone.

If this cannot be accomplished, and the river brought back to its original banks, then the communities will have to spread the financial loss to all property owners within the affected counties and school districts and the lakeside property owners will have to swallow the devaluation. I would hate to lose the lake access I have from the canal on Placid, but will immediately tender for a reduction in my property value commensurate with that loss, quite a significant drop in my tax payments.

I believe there is a logical answer here that will be beneficial here, let’s just get one on the table for discussion. The last thing we want to do parrot the pathetic and disgusting behavior we see in Washington.

Welcome to the discussion.

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