Court hearing continues Monday that could determine whether GBRA can drain lakes

GBRA executives expect to take the stand during hearing

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter, Dale L. Keller - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - The futures of four lakes along the Guadalupe River are on the line as a critical court hearing resuming Monday could keep them from being drained - at least for now.

Property owners are requesting a temporary injunction to keep the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority from draining Lake McQueeney, Lake Placid, Meadow Lake, and Lake Gonzales. The hearing over whether to grant a temporary injunction began last Wednesday and might last into the week. 

It will likely include testimony from GBRA executives at some point.

The GBRA said draining the four lakes is necessary due to safety concerns over aging dams. Two other lakes held back by similar hydroelectric dams - Lake Wood in 2016 and Lake Dunlap in May - have already emptied because of spill gate failures.

Watch exact moment of partial dam failure at Lake Dunlap

However, the GBRA has said it does not currently have the means to fund the necessary repairs. So even though private property owners have begun looking at options to raise money, it's not clear when, or even if, the lakes would be filled if they are drained.

Lawsuits filed to prevent draining of GBRA lakes

 Two separate lawsuits filed by property owners looking to prevent the drainage are part of the joint hearing. A temporary injunction would keep the lakes from being drained pending a trial. 

The drainage is on hold at least until the judge issues a ruling on the request for an injunction. The GBRA had planned to begin the drainage, lake by lake, on Monday.

Attorneys for the property owners, 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."

Future property values muddy ahead of GBRA lake drainages.

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.

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