Construction to begin on Lake Dunlap dam after spill gate failure

Four lakes were in danger of being dewatered after spill gate failure

SEGUIN, Texas – Construction to restore a dam at Lake Dunlap has been approved exactly two years after a spill gate failure caused the lake to drop 7 feet.

Video caught the exact moment that a spill gate failed at Lake Dunlap on the morning of May 14, 2019, with water rushing out of the lake at 11,000 cubic feet per second, according to officials with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority.

Now, the Texas Water Development Board and Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority have authorized construction to replace three bear-trap style crest gates with new hydraulically-actuated steel crest gates.

The project is expected to take 24 months, pending unforeseen weather delays, with a cost of approximately $35 million. Officials with the project noted that flooding events and other miscellaneous items may occur during construction and lead to additional costs.

A $40 million bond to fund the project has been secured by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority through the Texas Water Development Board’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program.

The Lake Dunlap Water Control and Improvement District will be responsible for the debt service and future maintenance and operation costs of the new dams, officials said in a news release.

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority owns the six dams that create the Guadalupe Valley Lakes system and the waters within the lakes. Those lakes include Lake Dunlap, Lake McQueeny, Lake Placid, Meadow Lake, Lake Gonzales and Lake Wood.

In August 2019, the GBRA announced that Lake Gonzales, Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and Lake McQueeney would be drained due to concerns over aging dams. Lake Gonzales was expected to be dewatered first, followed by Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and Lake McQueeney.

However, a judge put a temporary halt to the draining of the four lakes in September 2019 to hear arguments from lawyers representing residents who live along the lakes in addition to GBRA lawyers.

The six hydroelectric dams that form the Guadalupe Valley Lakes have surpassed their useful life at more than 90 years old after being put into service between 1928 and 1932.

GBRA officials applied for zero-interest and low-interest loans from the Texas Water Development Board for replacement and repair projects associated with the aging dams in July 2020. A press release from last week notes that the bond used to secure funding to fix the dams will have a 0.03 to 0.29% interest rate depending on the maturity date.

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority will continue to own and operate the dam at Lake Dunlap, while contributing all gross revenues from the sale of hydroelectric power generated by the dam go back to the Lake Dunlap Water Control and Improvement District.

Related: Settlement reached in lawsuit related to draining of 4 GBRA lakes

“It is the continued partnership, dialogue, and collaboration with the Lake Dunlap WCID, the Preserve Lake Dunlap Association and the greater Lake Dunlap community throughout Comal and Guadalupe counties that have made the restoration of Lake Dunlap a reality, while simultaneously creating a roadmap for several other lakes to follow,” said GBRA General Manager and CEO Kevin Patteson.

A settlement was reached in July 2020 in one of two lawsuits regarding the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and the property owners along the Guadalupe Valley lakes. The settlement allowed GBRA to continue maintaining current operating levels on each lake until work begins on the spill gate replacement and repairs on that lake’s dam.

The court ruling still prevents the lakes from being drained and a second lawsuit, on behalf of property owners in the area, has yet to reach a settlement.

Water Control and Improvement Districts for Lake Dunlap, Lake McQueeney and Lake Placid have all been formed in an effort to help fund the necessary replacement of the spill gates on their respective dams, with those projects expected to begin in 2022, officials said.

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