Lake Dunlap

An aerial view show how Lake Dunlap was reduced to a river following a spill gate failure on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

Replacing the gates on the dam that failed on Tuesday and drained Lake Dunlap could cost between $15-$35 million and involve several years of work, GBRA officials said late Thursday afternoon.

The Lake Dunlap dam was the second of six hydroelectric dams that the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority manages that has had gate failures in the last three years. The $15-$35 million price tag would apply to each individual dam.

“GBRA experienced a similar spillgate collapse at Lake Wood, four miles west of Gonzales, in 2016 caused by a failure of structural steel members inside the gate,” GBRA spokesperson Patty Gonzales said in a news release. “While the cause of the failure at Lake Dunlap will not be determined until further investigation, it is currently believed the failure at Dunlap is also related to aging structural steel.”

Each of GBRA’s hydroelectric dams is more than 85 years old.

On Wednesday, Gonzales said the investigation in the gate’s collapse is delayed due to the Army Corps of Engineers releasing water from Canyon Lake.

In the meantime, GBRA General Manager Kevin Patteson said officials are seeking solutions to getting the lakes back up.

“We recognize the value of Lake Dunlap to the community. GBRA is committed to finding a solution to replace the spillgates at all of our aging dams,” he said. “The ability to move forward with construction at Lake Dunlap, Lake Wood, and the other dams is dependent on securing funding for these multi-year, multi-million dollar projects.”

GBRA officials began to look into their options shortly after the failure at Lake Wood, which included consulting with engineers, who determined that all of the spill gates would need to be replaced and upgraded.

“In 2018, GBRA began the design of hydraulic crest gates for Lake Wood, and is currently progressing with a design which will involve replacement of the spillgates along with modifications to the concrete structure of the dam,” according to an authority press release. “The design, which will take approximately a year to complete, will be similar for the other dams in the system, including at Lake Dunlap.”

GBRA said the improvements are expected to take two to three years for construction at each site, and that the agency is exploring its options for funding the work.

“GBRA’s revenues alone cannot support that level of investment. GBRA is continuing to research all available funding opportunities through state and federal resources, as well as stakeholder partnerships,” the authority said in its statement.

While GBRA is working on its end, Guadalupe County’s State Representative John Kuempel added an amendment to a bill that would create the first state flood plan and it would require dam repair and maintenance needs to be identified and reported across the state, as well as serve as a guide for large emergency events, such as Hurricane Harvey.

“These critical flood related infrastructures need to be identified for future planning and improvements so that catastrophic events in the future can be avoided — or mitigated, at the very least,” Kuempel said.

Felicia Frazar is the managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail her at

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(2) comments


With each passing year, these dams become increasingly likely to fail and become more expensive to repair or replace. Is it time to reconsider whether the benefit outweighs the expense?

Ricky Vandersloot

You are more than welcome to foot the bill! I say let all the people that live on the lakes foot the bill, they are the ones who benefit from it.

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