As Guadalupe County judge, I am asked daily how my constituents feel about the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority’s plan to drain four lakes without a long-range plan in place to revitalize them. They want to know why GBRA gave property owners less than one month’s notice before GBRA moves forward with its plan to drain the lakes. People want to know how they can fight GBRA’s actions which will have permanent impacts on the face of the Guadalupe Valley.
My response is that many of us are working daily to mitigate the damage that will be done to so many people’s way of life; and the detrimental effect to our public schools, and the businesses and the jobs affected by the draining of our lakes by GBRA. GBRA breached our trust yet our invitation remains open to them to work toward meaningful solutions. We are not going to relent in our fight for Texas values like protecting property rights and defending our job creators. Here’s why:
GBRA insists draining our lakes is a safety issue, yet its representatives have unilaterally dismissed Guadalupe County’s plan to draft enforceable ordinances restricting access to the lakes, and volunteer the deep resources of our sheriff’s department and other agencies to patrol them while we work collaboratively on a long-range plan. For our communities, every option is on the table to ensure that safety is maintained, and to work as partners with GBRA for a meaningful, long-range solution. We hope GBRA is listening.
This is about being good stewards and good neighbors. GBRA’s website states that it is “dedicated to the continued vitality of our communities.” For more than 50 years, GBRA has exercised supreme authority over the lakes in our area. In that time, GBRA has spent less than $500,000 on average per year for maintenance on all six dams. The Texas Sunset Commission cited GBRA in its 2018 report for neglect of their aging infrastructure. Being a good steward and a good neighbor means being accountable to the communities you serve.
This is about real impact to our communities. Properties on the lakes represent more than $1 billion in appraised value for Guadalupe County. For Seguin ISD, this represents almost $700 million in assessed value, or 18% of their tax base. For Navarro ISD, it represents $90 million in assessed value and 10% of their base. Seguin’s Downtown Business Alliance estimates lake recreation and tourism contribute to more than $60 million in outside spending with Seguin-area businesses. Draining the lakes without a long-term plan in place to restore them will have an immediate and far-reaching negative impact on Guadalupe County residents.
For nearly a century, the lakes have been an integral part of our way of life in Guadalupe County. Draining our lakes will drain our economy. We face devastating economic consequences because dam safety has been systemically and systematically ignored by GBRA for decades. We must have tough conversations not about the past, but about our path forward. We respectfully ask GBRA to suspend its plans to begin draining the lakes, and work with the county and community on our safety efforts, and remain engaged to develop actionable, long-range plans to restore the lakes.
Kyle Kutscher is the current Guadalupe County judge.