Concerns about the twenties and thirties-era dams which hold back the lakes on the Guadalupe River has led to a decision to, in the words of the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, 'dewater' the lakes, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
“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.”
The process of draining the four remaining lakes will begin next month with Lake Gonzalez, which is the southernmost lake in the chain of lakes on the river. It will then proceed to Meadow Lake, Lake Placid, and Lake McQueeney. It will take approximately three days to drain each lake.
The dam on Lake Dunlop failed earlier this year, causing the water behind the dam to go crashing down the river. Before that the spillgate failed on Lake Wood in 2016. Patteson says engineering analysis has shown that the failure of the dams was do to completely different factors, which heighten his concern over the safety of the remaining four dams.
"The hydroelectric dams that form the recreational lakes along the Guadalupe River have surpassed the end of their useful life at more than 90 years old,' he said.
He says several attempts have been made over the last several years to mitigate the danger, including adding signage and buoys, establishing and extending restricted zones around the dams and installing real-time monitoring cameras as well as sirens and public address systems –to warn people of the hazard.
The GBRA says it has done its best to keep the dams in as good repair as possible, spending more than $25 million over the past several decades on maintenance.
Pattison says the GBRA is committed to replacing the dams and returning the lakes to their historic levels. He says the GRBA is working with the landowners and other stakeholders to come up with a plan to raise the money needed for the replacement of the dams.
The GBRA will discuss is decision to dewater the lakes at a special meeting on Wednesday.