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Refilling of Lake Dunlap near New Braunfels begins Thursday

Steve Short
A dock sits high and dry days after the spill gate failure at Lake Dunlap.

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The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) said it planned to begin refilling Lake Dunlap, southeast of New Braunfels, around 3 p.m. Thursday.

The lake has sat drained since May 2019 after a spill gate collapse at its dam.

The new $40 million dam has been successfully tested by the GBRA and San Antonio-based Zachry Construction.

"Initial refilling operations will commence by raising two of the three gates up 1-ft in elevation and slowly raising the remaining gate as the lake refills. Due to low flow conditions upstream, lake levels will rise very slowly and it is anticipated to take more than two months for the lake to be fully re-filled," the GBRA's statement explained.

The dam straddles the Guadalupe River. Water from the river will begin to pool behind the dam on Thursday. GBRA officials said it will take two months to refill.

It was among a series of spill gate failures at century old dams along the GBRA lakes chain. Those failures left other lakes drained too.

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 GRBA was sued by hundreds of property owners on the lakes after the spill gate failures left docks, boat houses, and property values in the mud.

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling to dismiss claims by property owners.

The GBRA and the lake property owners, however, reached out of court agreements. Voters approved water control districts to help pay for dams at Lakes Dunlap, McQueeney and Placid.

Work began on the McQueeney and Placid dams this summer. They could both be completed in two years or less.

Following the same model as the project on Lake Dunlap, construction will include the replacement of the bear-trap style crest gates on each dam with new hydraulically actuated steel crest gates, according to the GBRA.

Screenshot from aerial video of progress on the Lake Dunlap dam in the spring of 2022.
Screenshot from aerial video of progress on the Lake Dunlap dam

"Both projects will also include structural modifications to the existing spillway structures, installation of new mechanical and electrical operating systems, improved backup power, enhanced instrumentation and controls, improved headwater and tailwater measurement tools, new video surveillance, and the addition of a supervisory control and data acquisition interfaces," the agency explained.

"Both projects also include the installation of a dewatering system that will allow future maintenance activities to be completed with a full lake level, as well as the hardening of the existing earthen dams to achieve compliance with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Dam Safety requirements. Sundt was selected as the general contractor for both projects through a formal competitive procurement process," the GBRA said.

“We are ready to get these projects underway,” said GBRA General Manager and CEO Darrell Nichols. “Partnership and cooperation has been the foundation of these projects and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with the Lake McQueeney and Lake Placid communities, including the Lake McQueeney WCID, Friends of Lake McQueeney, the Lake Placid WCID and Citizens United for Lake Placid.”

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