Compromised dams sparks draining of four Texas lakes

Compromised dams have forced the draining of four Central Texas lakes along the Guadalupe River. 

Starting next month, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority will be draining water from Lakes Gonzales, Placid and McQueeney, and Meadow Lake. 

“You can expect to see the water level drop 12 feet,” GBRA executive manager of engineering Charlie Hickman said. “There's significant life and safety risks downstream of these dams and that's what we are trying to prevent.”

The draining follows the recent spillgate failure at Lake Dunlap earlier this year and at Lake Wood in 2016. GBRA doesn’t want history to repeat itself. 

“We were actually doing repairs at the other dam sites to address what saw at Lake Wood but what happened with Dunlap is a game changer,” said Hickman.

Those who live along the impacted lakes are not too thrilled about the upcoming changes. 

“It's really sad, really disappointing. I also grew up here,” said Victor Castilla who lives on Lake McQueeney.

“It's hard thinking that it's such a great place and a family oriented place and that's going to be gone,” said Tripp Uptegriph, another Lake McQueeney resident.

Hickman said after inspecting the other dams, they found they were compromised and small repairs won't prevent what happened at Lake Dunlap. 

“There's no feasible way to do small maintenance on these individual hinge pieces that we believe failed at Dunlap then doing a more comprehensive gate replacement,” said Hickman.

The biggest hurdle for these repairs to even begin is the lack of funding. 

“All of the dams only receive revenue from hydroelectricity,” Hickman said. “The amount that generates is far less than the cost needed for maintenance systems that's pervasive throughout all 6 of the dam site.”

During this time GBRA is urging people on the lakes to avoid getting close to the dams because if one does fail, it could be fatal to those nearby.

The dewatering of all the lakes is supposed to be done by the end of September but right now it's still up in the air on if or when they will refill those lakes.