NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – Inch by inch, Lake Dunlap in New Braunfels is slowly starting to refill nearly four years after a century-old dam collapsed. Millions of dollars later, a new dam stands, bringing the lake back to life.
“It just went rushing out. It then looked like something biblical where the gate exploded, and the water just came out in torrents. So it’s a little scary to see,” Doug Harrison said.
Harrison recalls seeing the dam collapsing several years ago. Now, a modern steel dam stands in its place.
Water from the Guadalupe River finally trickled its way to Cindy Jenkins’ marshy backyard.
“We can see the progress, and we’re happy just to see it coming up little by little,” Jenkins said.
Before the dam failure, water levels would have been several feet high, but it will take two to three months to get back to this point.
But all the progress came with a $35 million price tag. Neighbors along the lake agreed to voluntarily tax themselves to pay off a nearly 30-year bond for the new dam.
“We felt like, in the long run, it was very much to our advantage to go ahead and vote for the property tax and support it,” Jenkins said.
This is a first-of-its-kind tax district that other neighborhoods surrounded by dam-supported lakes are mimicking.
Doug Harrison, president of Lake Dunlap’s Water Control And Improvement District, said the new dam will be easier to maintain for years to come.
“One of the nicest new things about this one, is in front of each gate section, they have the ability to insert something called a stop log, which will let them seal off any one gate at a time and do maintenance without draining the lake, which is what we’ve had to do for the last 100 years,” Harrison said.
Every day, Jenkins sees the water levels get a little higher, and she’s looking forward to spending next summer at the lakeside.
“We enjoyed the kids coming up and playing on weekends and just being around water,” Jenkins said.