The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority faced a slew of property and business owners in court on Wednesday, to defend its plan to start draining lakes McQueeny, Placid, Meadow and Gonzales on September 16.
The GBRA plans to dewater the four remaining Guadalupe River lakes because of what officials say are imminent threats posed by their 90-year-old dams, but area stakeholders and their lawyers are asking for an injunction to stop the draining.
This legal dispute pits lake-area residents' safety against their property values and local economies, and the stakes are high. Property values are estimated to be reduced by 50% if the lakes are drained, which would in turn affect funding for local school districts. Small businesses that depend on use of the lakes would most likely have to close shop.
The GBRA's announced its decision in August after spill gates collapses at Lake Dunlap in May and Lake Wood in 2016. Officials say dewatering is necessary to prevent property damage and loss of life, and haven't been swayed by stakeholders' pleas and arguments.
The state-created river authority says it can't afford to replace the aging infrastructure, either. Revenue it receives from water sales and wastewater treatment just covers operating expenses, and the GBRA doesn't have any taxing power. Some residents have suggested creating special tax districts to help pay for dam repairs.
Injuction proceedings could last several days, possibly even past the GBRA's Monday deadline to begin dewatering. How could the judge's decision affect the future of these Guadalupe River lakes and the people who live, work and vacation there?
- Josh Baugh, reporter covering environmental issues for the San Antonio Express-News
- Brian Kirkpatrick, general assingment reporter for Texas Public Radio
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, September 12.