With very few options presenting themselves to repair a failed spill gate, property owners living on Lake Dunlap in Guadalupe County are making plans to take matters into their own hands.
Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, owner of the dam, has said that it has too few resources to repair and maintain the dam and five others like it, and that help from other vested entities would be needed. So members of the Preserve Lake Dunlap Association at a recent meeting voted to take a step toward starting a water district to levy the funds.
“A plan for the waterfront property owners to take over control of the dam via the creation of a water district has been proposed, and was shared (recently) with members in attendance at the PLDA monthly board meeting,” PLDA President J Harmon said in a letter he provided The Seguin Gazette on Monday morning. “Essentially, this plan has the lakefront owners, as the ones most affected by this, to now step up and fix it ourselves.”
GBRA officials said they believe aging steel caused a spill gate to break free May 14 and open the dam at Lake Dunlap. The failure caused the lake to effectively empty, leaving behind mud and debris where refreshing waters once flowed.
GBRA owns and operates six hydroelectric dams on the Guadalupe River. Dunlap was the second of the dams to experience a spill-gate failure and empty.
In the days and weeks leading up to and after the spill at Lake Dunlap, GBRA officials appealed to the community at large, including elected officials and property owners, for help in maintaining the nearly 100-year-old dams. Money is an issue, among other concerns.
Water authority personnel said all six of the dams need to be replaced at costs of up to $35 million each.
PLDA helped seek out options but all involved have continued to run into dead ends with government aid possibilities seeming bleaker and bleaker, Harmon said. PLDA members worked with a state senator, state representative and county judge to come up with an option.
The association’s plan goals are to restore and preserve the value of waterfront property; restore economic viability and support recreation; and ensure proper repairs are performed, Harmon’s letter read.
“The fact is that unless we come together with one mind, determined to create a solution where none currently exists, the lake is going to stay the way it is, and in time, few will remember the quality of life we enjoyed here,” he said. “This proposal is currently the only viable solution on the table anywhere, and it gives the lakefront property owners a direct say in the operation and maintenance of the dam.”
The creation of a water district would go through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. A water district is a local, governmental entity that provides limited services to its customers and residents, according to the TCEQ website.
Plans for the water district are far from complete. However, the initial idea is that assessment of $6-$8 per linear foot of lakefront per year for 30 years would suffice for repairs, Harmon said.
Assessments likely would decrease afterward. PLDA board members suggest a partnership with and contributions from GBRA and Guadalupe County could help limit the amount property owners would need to raise, Harmon said.
He said GBRA has offered to transfer ownership of the dam to the newly-formed district.
A GBRA representative said no such decisions have been made but nothing is beyond consideration.
“All options are on the table, GBRA leadership is engaged with the lake associations to discuss and develop options to create a sustainable funding source,” said Patty Gonzales, GBRA communications manager. “However, any action related to sale or transfer of real estate property or assets of the Guadalupe Valley Hydroelectric System will require approval from the GBRA board of directors.”
GBRA is poised to work with groups such as PLDA to identify funding sources and possible changes in ownership, Gonzales said.
Harmon warned folks to stay tuned as the process continues.
“As soon as the details are hammered out, and we have formal commitments from the partners, we will plan another public meeting for the lakefront property owners to present the plan, answer the many questions we know will need to be addressed, and to continue to preserve the transparency we have been encouraging throughout these challenging times,” he said.