Spill gate failure

Lake Dunlap empties following a spill gate failure on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

The lawsuit between property owners along the area's lakes and the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority will be back in a Guadalupe County courtroom next month.

The parties will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 9, said J. Douglas Sutter, attorney for the hundreds of plaintiffs suing the river authority in connection with failed and failing dams in the Guadalupe Valley hydro-electric dam system.

The hearing involves a pair of motions Sutter recently filed. One asks the judge to rule that GBRA is solely responsible to replace the dams. Another seeks to have the judge throw out a GBRA motion forcing his clients to hand over information and/or documents; to have the judge force GBRA to hand over information and/or documents; to have the judge not require the sides to attempt mediation; and more.

The judge is expected to hear arguments from attorneys when they meet.

“Currently, only the judge, court reporter, court staff, counsel and, we believe, members of the press may be in the courtroom unless the current rules have been relaxed by them,” Sutter said in an email sent Monday.

Visiting Judge Steve Ables, Presiding Judge of the Sixth Administrative Judicial Region, has been hearing the case filed last year following the spill gate failure at Lake Dunlap that drained the lake.

After waters rushed through the broken spill gate and the lake’s levels all but disappeared, GBRA officials declared all six of the dams in its lakes system unsafe. The structures and facilities were too old to safely hold back the water and needed to be replaced, they said.

In a compromise with homeowners, river authority officials had a study conducted and declared portions of the lakes unsafe and off limits while other portions were cleared for recreational activities.

The compromise came after two separate attorneys filed lawsuits against GBRA. Sutter represents 300-plus plaintiffs and Ricardo Cedilla of San Antonio represents about 10 plaintiffs in a separate suit.

All of the gates are about 90 years old and have rusting and failing parts that could cause dangerous conditions if they were to fail, GBRA General Manager/CEO Kevin Patteson has said. He threatened to dewater all of the lakes before agreements were struck and orders issued to prevent the immediate draining of the lakes.

However, the lawsuits still move forward as property owners try to compel GBRA to repair/replace the dams and/or spill gates to preserve the property values along and around the lakes.

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