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River Authority Announces Four Texas Lakes Will Be Drained To Prevent Floodgate Failure

A restricted area sign at Lake Dunlap.
Courtesy of GBRA
A restricted area sign at Lake Dunlap.

Four Texas lakes will be “dewatered” by the end of September, according to the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority.

The GBRA has set Sept. 16 as the start date to drain the area lakes to prevent the collapse of floodgates and to protect public safety. Officials estimate the water will go down 12 feet, depending on the area.

The move comes after last May's floodgate collapse on Lake Dunlap.

Draining the lakes will relieve the pressure on the floodgates, GBRA officials said.

No one was hurt in the Lake Dunlap collapse, but the GBRA worries loss of life or limb is possible with 90-year-old floodgates still in place at Lakes Gonzales, Placid, and McQueeney and Meadow Lake.

GBRA spokeswoman Patty Gonzales said a third-party engineering company did not like the look of a floodgate hinge at the failed gate at Dunlap.

"The hinges are so deteriorated that in their estimation it is best not to continue to operate these gates," she said.

GBRA is getting out of the business of selling power generated by the dams.  Officials said repairs to the dams made it a money-loser.

Members of the authority said they plan to work with residents on the lakes to mitigate the damage.  Residents on Lake Dunlap plan to form their own water control district to levy property taxes to repair their floodgate.

They believe a vote next May is likely. A leader of that effort said similar movements are underway on some of the other lakes.

The authority has coordinated with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to devise a dewatering plan designed to minimize the impacts to the environment. 

"We're going to start on the southernmost end with Lake Gonzales, then we'll move to Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and McQueeney will be the last one.  Barring any unforeseen issues, we expect that all four lakes will be dewatered be the end of September," she said.

The draw down is expected to take three days per lake. The GBRA announced notices to lake residents are going in the mail this week.

In the meantime, to keep water recreationists away from the floodgates on the dams, signs and buoys are warning them to keep back 400 feet.

But Gonzales said despite their best efforts, monitoring systems continue to capture people close to and in some cases on top of the dams.

Small businesses on the lakes, including ski school, bait shops, a boat repair shop, and the resort of Son's Island are worried about the economic impact of the drainings.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.

Copyright 2020 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Brian Kirkpatrick has been a journalist in Texas most of his life, covering San Antonio news since 1993, including the deadly October 1998 flooding, the arrival of the Toyota plant in 2003, and the base closure and realignments in 2005.