GBRA lakes will not be drained Monday as planned

Short hold only as hearing continues

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter, Misael Gomez - Photojournalist

GUADALUPE COUNTY, Texas - The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority will not drain four of its lakes as scheduled Monday, but it's only a brief hold as a court hearing continues.

Property owners along Lake McQueeney, Lake Placid, Meadow Lake and Lake Gonzales, as well as the already drained Lake Dunlap and Lake Wood, have filed two separate lawsuits against the GBRA in an attempt to keep the agency from draining those first four lakes. At a Wednesday hearing in Guadalupe County, they asked a judge for a temporary injunction, which keep the lakes full until a trial can be held.

However, the hearing is scheduled to continue Monday morning - the same day as the drainage. So the judge ordered a temporary restraining order on draining the lakes until he can issue a ruling on the injunction - likely sometime next week.

RELATED: Draining of four lakes along Guadalupe River delayed

The GBRA has said draining McQueeney, Placid, Meadow and Gonzales is necessary because of safety concerns over the aging hydroelectric dams. Officials point to spillgate failures at Lake Wood in 2016 and Lake Dunlap in May as evidence of what could happen at any of the other lakes.

The river authority said it does not currently have the money to fix the dams.

Attorneys for the property owners, though, spent much of Wednesday's hearing questioning the rationale behind the GBRA's decision, both in reference to the level of danger the dams posed and also the stated reason for "safety."

"This decision, as we've established by the evidence was made years ago," said Doug Sutter, the attorney representing property owners for the larger of the two lawsuits, "that GBRA made a conscious decision that it was going to get out of the hydroelectric dam business, and it was essentially going to abandon the dams and not maintain them as they should be maintained and certainly not replace the dams."

The GBRA'S attorney, however, said he has seen "no indication that GBRA is doing anything other than their job. They are working hard to find solutions to these issues. They are complex issues. If the GBRA were really looking to run from this issue, it would have come to the judge and said, 'Enjoin us, so we don't have to make a decision.'"

Sutter and Lamont Jefferson also disagree on whether the GBRA has a statutory obligation to maintain the dams.

The GBRA's attorney believes whether the property owners have a "property interest" will be a key question in the hearing.

"In other words, can the property owners control what's going on with the lakes and with the spill gates," Jefferson asked?

The hearing will continue Monday, Sept. 16, at 10 a.m. at the Guadalupe County Courthouse in Seguin.

Copyright 2019 by KSAT - All rights reserved.