Four Texas Lakes to Be Drained Because Risk of Dam Spillways Failing Is So High – The Weather Channel

  • Spillway gates on the man-made lakes are 90 years old and beyond repair.
  • Floodgates on two other lakes have already failed.
  • The water authority said it would cost $179 million to fix all the dams.

Four lakes along the Guadalupe River in Texas will be drained by the end of September after water officials decided spillway gates at the lakes are too dangerous to maintain.

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority made the decision in response to the May 14 collapse of a 90-year-old spillway on the dam at Lake Dunlap.

Video from a security camera showed an 85-foot-long, 12-foot-tall spillway gate bursting from the dam on the lake near New Braunfels, Texas. Water dumped into the Guadalupe River at 11,000 cubic feet per second, Texas Public Radio station KSTX reported.

No one was hurt in the Lake Dunlap collapse. It was the second spill gate to fail since 2016, when Lake Wood drained after its gates failed.

The six dams were built between 1927 and 1932 for hydroelectric power generation, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The river authority bought the dams from private owners in 1963 and has spent $25 million on repairs and maintenance.

The cost to replace the spillway gates is estimated to cost $179 million, and the work would take several years.

For now, the river authority has decided the aging dams pose too much of a risk for the people who use the lakes for water-skiing, wakeboarding and fishing.

“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,” GBRA General Manager and CEO Kevin Patteson told the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. “GBRA is committed to working closely with the lake associations and the community to mitigate the impact of this difficult but necessary decision.”

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The lakes will be emptied beginning on Sept. 16 at Lake Gonzales, the southernmost lake. The work will then move upstream to Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and Lake McQueeney, according to the GBRA. The drawdown is expected to take three days per lake and should be done by the end of September.

People who live along the lakes aren’t happy.

“We’re victims of maybe decades of mismanagement,” Les Shook, who has lived on Lake McQueeney for three years, told the Herald-Zeitung. “There is just something wrong here. The biggest problem is that if they drain this lake, my house is going to decrease in value by 50%. There’s a lot of valuable property on this lake.”

“Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the dams is a community endeavor,” the authority said in a news release. “GBRA is working in partnership with the Guadalupe Valley Lakes lake associations and affected residents, as well as city and county officials, to determine the best course of action for identifying, funding and completing the necessary replacement of the dams.”