A tree appears to have caused a backup earlier this month that led to one of the spill gates failing and draining Lake Gonzales.
There is no safe way to fix it and no money available to replace all the spill gates at the aging hydro-electric dam, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, the owner of the dam, said. GBRA operations staff and engineering teams evaluated the gates and came to a conclusion, Executive Manager of Engineering Charlie Hickman said.
“We were really unable to identify any repair mechanisms that could be accomplished in a safe manner that we felt were implementable at this time,” he said. “The recommendation we have still for Lake Gonzales is that we leave the gate in its current condition and pursue, as we have done with the other hydroelectric lakes, a funding solution that will allow for a comprehensive repair of the spill gate and not attempt to address the 90-year-old spill gate that’s currently installed.”
In the early morning hours of Aug. 3, a tree floated down the lake, hit a spill gate, got stuck up against the structure, and remained wedged for some time, Hickman said. The large tree eventually dislodged and floated away but left the spill gate damaged, inoperable and open, he said.
Crews tried hours later to raise the spill gate but were unable to get it to budge, Hickman said. Fixing it would mean getting repair crews on top of the dam and in hazardous positions, which is dangerous, he said.
“For safety reasons, we will not be sending operators back up on the gates,” Hickman said. “We can’t come up with a way to try to perform these repairs that doesn’t require that at some point.”
Three of the six dams in the Guadalupe Lakes System have experienced spill gate failures. Lake Wood was the first, then Lake Dunlap and most recently Lake Gonzales.
Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority leadership has said the dams, all of which were built around 90 years ago, have outlived their usefulness.
Residents along Lake Dunlap, Lake McQueeney and Lake Placid formed Water Control Improvement Districts to pay for replacement of spill gates and save the lakes. Meadow Lake residents are in the process of determining the best way forward to save that lake.
Lake Gonzales and Lake Wood don’t have the population bases to create taxing districts and no other funding sources have been identified to save those lakes, GBRA leaders have said.