The Texas Senate on Wednesday concluded its final consideration of pending legislation, leaving only administrative work before the 86th regular session ends on Monday.
However, actions on the budget remain alive — which is why Lake Dunlap-area state legislators asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to consider spending up to $28 million for damages caused in the May 14 spillway collapse.
“Close to 100,000 water customers are serviced by the reservoir,” said the May 20 request, penned by District 25 State Sen. Donna Campbell and District 44 State Rep. John Kuempel. “Failure of this dam has dropped the water level by 11 feet, now putting a strain on the down flow dam at Lake McQueeney …”
McQueeney is one of six lakes created with a hydroelectric dams managed by the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, which has estimated replacing Lake Dunlap’s failed dam gates could take up to three years and cost between $15 million and $35 million.
“The GBRA cannot fund these repairs,” the letter stated. “This local disaster is estimated to cost $28 million … We respectfully ask your assistance to fund the repairs of the Dunlap Dam.”
Alice Claiborne and Brittany Madden, respective staffers serving Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and Kuempel, R-Seguin, said they didn’t know if other legislators have made similar requests to the governor.
Only the governor and the Legislative Budget Board have authority to manage state’s appropriations while the legislature is not in session. Budget execution authority permits the state to reallocate existing appropriations for fiscal emergencies that occur between legislative sessions, similar to relief after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas coast in 2017.
Senate Bill 8 would serve as the framework for the state’s first flood plan. It would create a process to adopt a plan based on regional water plans, establish a temporary advisory committee, and require updated reports on a dam repair and maintenance plan.
“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 last week after he amended SB 8 to require the Texas Water Development Board prepare the reports and language empowering legislators to appropriate funding.
However, unless legislators act over the weekend, there’s not enough funding to cover all SB 8 provisions – aside from of those contained in the supplemental budget bill passed by the House on March 28. Without it, the LBB projects SB 8 could reduce the state’s general revenue fund by $43.4 million through fiscal year 2020-21.