Residents on four south central Texas lakes are celebrating Monday’s out-of-court settlement that will keep the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority from draining the waterways. Lakeside locals said they are trying to appreciate their lakes each day they have them.
The hallways at the Guadalupe Justice Center in Seguin were packed with community members celebrating with one another on the agreed injunction.
The settlement keeps the lakes from being drained until at least October 2020, when a hearing is expected on the condition of 90-year-old floodgates at Lakes Gonzales, McQueeney, Placid and Meadow Lake and their possible threat to public safety.
The GBRA wanted to drain the lakes starting this month to relieve water pressure on the old floodgates after floodgates on two other lakes failed. Hundreds of lakeside residents sued to stop them.
Caye Powada was among those who grew up on the lakes and was celebrating outside the courtroom.
“I learned how to ski on Lake McQueeney when I was 6. Then my parents bought a lakehouse on Lake Placid when I was 13, so I’ve actually been on both of these lakes since I was 6, so that’s about 50 something years — means a lot,” she said.
Lake McQueeney resident Donna Kennedy says her late husband Robert, spent many of his final days on their lake property and told his family to cherish it.
“My husband became handicapped and would sit on the porch with his grandchildren saying, ‘Don’t you kids ever sell this lake house, you bring your kids to this lake house,’” Kennedy said.
Lake McQueeney resident Nancy Bruington says the lakes mean not only a lot to the property owners, but they are also the source of jobs and big property tax revenue for schools and local government in Guadalupe and Comal Counties.
“It’s extensive, the involvement of the properties on these lakes being a part of all those communities,” Bruington said.
Residents on three of the lakes are pushing to vote in taxing water districts as early as May to raise revenue to repair the floodgates.
Kennedy said the settlements will give them more time to save the lakes.
“These water districts that individual lake associations are working toward are necessary right now, but take time,” she said.
The GBRA estimates the cost of bringing the dams and floodgates up to code at $180 million and it does not plan to replace them.
The costs are not deterring Bruington. She said besides the taxing water districts, property owners plan to look for other sources of funding outside the GBRA.
Many lake residents are upset with how quiet Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the GBRA board members he appointed have been since the failure of the floodgate on Lake Dunlap in May.
Powada said she believes Abbott has lost a lot of political support in conservative Guadalupe County.
“I think that will reflect in other voting the next time we get another opportunity to vote,” she said.
In the deal, water recreationists must stay off the lakes for 30 to 60 days until experts can determine "unsafe zones."
After that, the residents have their lakes for at least another year unless another floodgate fails, which the GBRA maintains could happen at anytime.
For many, that includes at least one more summer at the lake.