Looking to move beyond courtroom drama and into concrete solutions, property owners around Lake McQueeney have determined a way to save their dam and, in turn, their lake-front residences.
On Tuesday morning, they received a nod from county government to move forward with plans to rehab the aging dam that officials have warned could fail.
“This is a way for funding to be in a place so something can not only be replaced but maintained and protected for a long time,” County Judge Kyle Kutscher said. “That’s what everybody wants. That’s what I wish all the people that came before us 50 years ago would’ve wanted.
“So, like it or not, I think this is the right thing to do.”
Guadalupe County commissioners unanimously approved an order establishing Lake McQueeney Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, defining its boundaries and appointing its first five temporary directors.
The WCID is McQueeney residents’ way of taxing themselves to raise money for the dam that created Lake McQueeney.
Dams at risk
The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, which owns the six dams that created the Guadalupe Valley Lakes system and the waters within the lakes, has said spill gates at all six dams need replacing.
Officials attributed spill gate failures at Lake Wood in 2016 and Lake Dunlap in May of this year to aging, deteriorating infrastructure.
All of the dams are upwards of 90 years old and spill gates need to be replaced at costs of tens of millions of dollars per dam, GBRA General Manager/CEO Kevin Patteson has said.
He has said the authority can’t foot the bill on its own, and will work with entities such as the Friends of Lake McQueeney to come up with funding options.
“The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority supports the Friends of Lake McQueeney’s proposal to create a Water Control Improvement District to help fund the necessary replacement of the spill gates, as well as the annual maintenance and operation, at the hydroelectric dam at Lake McQueeney,” GBRA Communications Manager Patty Gonzales said. “GBRA remains committed to working in partnership with stakeholders in identifying viable funding solutions to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Guadalupe Valley Lakes.”
Establishing the WCID and partnering with GBRA is FOLM’s way of solving the problem, said Stephen Robinson, an attorney representing FOLM in its efforts to establish the district.
“I just think this is an opportunity for the community to move forward and solve a very big problem,” Robinson said following the Commissioners Court vote. “This district will be part of the solution.”
A new voice
FOLM previously voted on temporary board directors to lead the district, and commissioners court approved the list. The directors are Lake McQueeney residents David Doughtie, John Ewald, Lindsey Gillum and Paul Mueller, along with Bob Worth of San Antonio, who owns a vacation home on Lake McQueeney.
The temporary appointments last until directors can be elected in May. In the meantime, the district will get down to business, Robinson said.
“We will begin to have public meetings that will be open to attend like other public meetings,” he said.
Lake McQueeney Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 encompasses an area along Lake McQueeney and its canals. Only people who own property in such areas may be taxed by the newly-formed district.
The Texas Constitution and Texas Water Code provided steps for establishing Water Control and Improvement Districts, which have power to construct and maintain dams, Robinson said. The cities of Seguin and New Braunfels previously passed resolutions supporting the WCID.
On Tuesday, it was Guadalupe County’s turn.
People have been up in arms for months directing their ire at GBRA. Lawsuits have been filed and residents have faulted the river authority for the spill gate failures and a perceived lack of attention to the dams’ maintenance.
However, GBRA has said that the dams long outlived their usefulness and are no longer profitable as hydroelectric facilities. So aligning with the water authority to help fund the repairs and keep the dams and lakes intact is the best option, Kutscher said.
“I’m not particularly excited about Guadalupe County Commissioners Court setting up a new taxing district,” he said. “At the same time, when you take out the emotion ... this is the only way. Waiting on a river authority that doesn’t have the funding to get it done isn’t going to work.”