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With Lake Drainage Plan Set For Next Month, Guadalupe River Residents Are Fighting Back

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority says draining Lake McQueeney may be necessary to effect dam repairs. Residents who depend on the lake for recreation and their livelihood don't like the idea.
The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority says draining Lake McQueeney may be necessary to effect dam repairs. Residents who depend on the lake for recreation and their livelihood don't like the idea.

From Texas Standard:

The news that four lakes on the Guadalupe River will be drained next month has residents living along those lakes up in arms. 

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, or GRBA, is taking this extraordinary action over concerns about the failures of aging dams. Now, a group of people living along one of those lakes says they want to fight the decision in court.

Josh Baugh has been covering this story for the San Antonio Express-News, where he reports on the environment. He says the dams that contain Lake Gonzales, Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and Lake McQueeney were built in the 1920s, and the GBRA has determined they are no longer safe.

"They're very concerned at this point that there could be loss of life if there is another catastrophic incident – a spillgate failure – they've had two of them so far," Baugh says.

In July, GBRA's board instructed the organization's general manager to do what he could to mitigate public safety risks. Though signage warning people to avoid the area has been posted, video surveillance footage shows individuals climbing on the fragile dams, often during a boat trip down the lake.

Residents say that draining the lakes will harm their property values and the local economy. 

"They say that there's a lot of spending that occurs from people buying gas and bait and beer at the gas station around the corner, to maid service, to construction jobs, all kinds of things," Baugh says.

Though residents acknowledge potential safety concerns, Baugh says the certain economic impact outweighs the possibility of dam failures for the opponents of the GBRA plan.

GBRA is set to drain the lakes on Sep. 16. Residents have raised money for legal challenges, and are working to get an injunction against GBRA before the draining begins.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

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