Since the loss of Lake Dunlap earlier in the year, people who lived along the rest of the hydroelectric lakes along the Guadalupe River have held their breath. On Thursday morning, the GBRA gave them the punch in the stomach they were dreading.
The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority announced Thursday morning that it would begin a systematic drawdown of its remaining lakes on Sept. 16 after engineering assessments found it was the only way to minimize risks associated with its aging hydroelectric dam system.
“Safety is our top priority. We understand this is an unpopular decision, but one that we feel is unavoidable given the dangers associated with these dams,” said GBRA General Manager and CEO Kevin Patteson. “GBRA is committed to working closely with the lake associations and the community to mitigate the impact of this difficult, but necessary decision.”
GBRA said is has coordinated with Texas Parks and Wildlife to come up with a "dewatering plan" designed to minimize impacts to the environment.
It will begin with the southern-most lake, Lake Gonzales and continue upstream to Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and Lake McQueeney. Each lake is expected to take three days with all lakes drained by the end of September.
GBRA said it is making efforts to communicate directly with affected property owners providing advanced written notice by mail and additional written communications with specific information about the drawdown before it begins.
The agency said the dams that form the recreational lakes along the river have outlived their useful life at more than 90 years old and that over the years it has added safety measures with signs, buoys and restricted zones around the dams to warn people.
"Despite these efforts, monitoring systems continue to capture people within the restricted areas close to — and in some instances on top of — the dams, intensifying public safety concerns," GBRA said.
GBRA said that despite regular maintenance — including significant repairs made after the floods of 1998 and 2002 — assessment indicated the original structural steel components at each of the dams were compromised.
"Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the dams is a community endeavor. GBRA is working in partnership with the Guadalupe Valley Lakes lake associations and affected residents, as well as city and county officials, to determine the best course of action for identifying, funding and completing the necessary replacement of the dams," the agency said "A dedicated website, GVLakes.com, has been established to keep the community updated of this evolving situation and provide contact information for key stakeholders."