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Environment

Texas Supreme Court upholds dismissal of property owners' lawsuit against GBRA

Work shows progress on Lake Dunlap Dam as of this spring.png
GBRA
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Screenshot from aerial video of progress this spring on new Lake Dunlap Dam

The Guadalupe Blanco River Authority is praising last week's Texas Supreme Court affirmation that upholds an appeals court ruling to dismiss claims by property owners in connection with dam spillgate failures in recent years.

The failures drained some lakes and caused other lakes with century-old spillgates to be lowered as a safety precaution. Lakeside property owners sued GBRA to fix the spillgates after the Seguin-based river authority said it could not afford the repairs.

In July 2021, the Fourth Court of Appeals affirmed the decision by the 25th Judicial District Court, Guadalupe County, to grant GBRA’s plea to the jurisdiction as to the majority of the claims.

The Court of Appeals also expanded the ruling in GBRA’s favor, finding the appellants also lacked standing for their two takings claims.

After hearing arguments in the case on June 17, 2021, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s decision on the takings claims, finding that the appellants could not demonstrate a particularized injury that was distinct from the community at large, absent ownership of a property right in the hydro dams, the lands underneath the lakes, or the water itself, according to a statement from the GBRA.

Voters approved water control and improvement districts to upgrade some of the dams. The GBRA has pledged some financing assistance.

“We appreciate the Supreme Court moving us closer to achieving resolution with its decisive action,” said GBRA General Manager and CEO Kevin Patteson. “Cooperation and collaboration has proven to be the path forward: the formation and voter confirmation of Water Control and Improvement Districts for Lake Dunlap, Lake McQueeney, and Lake Placid has made the long-term sustainability of those lakes possible. We look forward to working in continued partnership with them.”

Construction began on the Lake Dunlap dam project in May 2021.  Without major weather delays, the project could be completed by the spring of 2023. 

The GBRA reports late last year it was informed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers that both Lake McQueeney and Lake Placid projects would be subject to additional permitting requirements, different from what was required for the Lake Dunlap project.

Officials with the river authority were still hopeful they could initiate the 60 day general contractor bid process for those projects this summer.

The evaluation and inspection of the failed spillgate at Lake Gonzales conducted by GBRA and third-party engineering consultants determined that there are no repair mechanisms available that can be safely accomplished to bring the gate back into operation, the GBRA said.

Since repairs are not possible, the GBRA said funding will need to be identified for the replacement of the spillgates in order to restore the lake.

The river authority said an exhaustive search for potential funding options has not returned any viable options.

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