GBRA

Water flows over the Lake Dunlap dam on Thursday, May 23, 2019. The spillgate failure occured on the middle wall of the dam.

The visiting judge in the lawsuit against the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority over its plan to dewater the Guadalupe Valley Lakes on Tuesday granted plaintiffs a second temporary restraining order requesting the river authority cease a list of actions.

Steve Ables, Presiding Judge of the Sixth Administrative Judicial Region, granted the request from plaintiffs in Jimmy and Cheryl Williams et al vs. Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and its officers and directors.

In the order, plaintiffs’ attorney Doug Sutter requested GBRA stop selling water at below market rates, cancel plans to build an office facility in New Braunfels, give no more money to nonprofit organizations and more.

“I’m doing it because I want to get money for the dams, to fix the dams,” plaintiff’s attorney Doug Sutter said. “They claim they don’t have money to take care of the Guadalupe River Basin dams and reservoirs but they have money for everything else. How do you claim you don’t have money but you spend millions of dollars and waste millions of dollars on other things?”

Plaintiffs in the case initially filed suit against the defendants to stop GBRA from economically devastating the region with its plan to drain the remaining four lakes in its Guadalupe Valley Lakes system. Two of the six lakes drained when aging spill gates on the dams failed causing the water to empty. It happened in 2016 at Wood Lake and then again in May at Lake Dunlap.

The infrastructure failures occurred because the gates are old and need to be replaced, river authority officials have said. All of the dams are about 90 years old and probably in similar condition, they have said.

However, the river authority has no money to replace the spill gates, GBRA General Manager/CEO Kevin Patteson has said.

“I don’t care what they say, that’s not the truth,” Sutter said. “If you look at their financial statement, you’ll see where the money goes.”

The temporary restraining order Ables signed, he did so without notice or giving the defendants’ attorneys a chance to respond, said Lamont Jefferson, whose firm Jefferson Cano is representing the defendants. He said the order is vague and GBRA officials don’t know exactly what they can and can’t do.

“What we’re concerned about is the extent to which the order prevents us from conducting ongoing business,” Jefferson said. “It’s just not clear. Some of the things, the way it’s described in the order, don’t give us a lot of (direction) in pending contracts, obligations that we must meet, that wouldn’t run afoul of the TRO.”

Ables’ order gives the judge a chance to stop and figure out a next step before putting things back to normal, Jefferson said. The order lasts until a hearing can be held, he said.

Ables scheduled a hearing on the plaintiffs’ request for Tuesday, Nov. 5.

“It’s six days. I don’t know of anything critical that must happen or it’s do or die time between now and the 5th,” Jefferson said. “We will have a chance to fully air it out at that time.”

Ables’ order is preventing the river authority from carrying out its duties, Patty Gonzales, GBRA communications manager, said. 

“The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority’s primary purpose is to provide water and wastewater services within its 10-county district,” she said. “The temporary restraining order issued Tuesday, Oct. 29, is not only disappointing, but infringes on GBRA’s ability to keep the public safe by providing clean drinking water and reclamation services.”

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