Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
The process to drain four area lakes set to begin in 11 days could be delayed by lawsuits brought by two groups of Guadalupe Valley waterfront property owners.
The lakes, formed by dams on the Guadalupe River east of San Antonio, are subject to draining after the failure of one of those dams in May caused safety concerns up- and down-river. Despite pleas by area residents and business owners against the dewatering plan, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) voted to drain the lakes beginning Sept. 16.
On Thursday, attorney Doug Sutter filed a temporary restraining order against the GBRA on behalf of 250 landowners who hold waterfront properties adjacent the Guadalupe River.
In documents filed in the District Court of Guadalupe County, Sutter argued for the restraining order stating issues raised in the case are “far-reaching for the residents, taxpayers, businesses and taxing authorities of Comal, Guadalupe and Gonzales Counties.
“The destruction or dereliction of the six dams/levees at issue and the de-watering of the remaining four reservoirs not only will severely and irreparably damage the Plaintiffs, but will have a tremendous economic effect on the businesses located in these Counties, as well as the taxing authorities located therein.”
Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher has said the plan to drain the lakes also will drain the county of millions in tax revenues as property values drop by at least half.
The GBRA has 14 days to respond to the restraining order, said a spokesman for the Friends of Lake McQueeney, a group of citizens fighting to save the lakes.
Also on Thursday, attorney Ricardo Cedillo filed a temporary injunction on behalf of 10 Guadalupe County residents and property owners on Lake McQueeney and Lake Placid, giving the GBRA three days to respond.
That suit alleges GBRA “hired outside legal counsel and directed funds and other resources to engage in an aggressive media campaign which mischaracterized findings from engineering assessments and falsely castigated Plaintiffs and other property owners as placing their constitutional property rights above the need for public safety.”
The plaintiffs are requesting an injunction to stop the GBRA from draining the lakes pending an independent third-party assessment of the dams.
GBRA officials have said the dewatering is necessary for lakes held back by the roughly 90-year-old dams, the conditions of which constitute a safety risk. In response to the lawsuits, GBRA General Manager and CEO Kevin Patteson said via email that legal actions will not prevent another spill gate failure or protect lives.
“Despite increased warnings and publicity about the danger of recreating around the aging dams, we have video and photographs – taken as recently as this week – of citizens continuing to disregard warning signs and risk their lives,” Patteson stated. “Alerts sound, danger signs are posted, and they continue to be ignored. GBRA stands by its decision to move forward with the dewatering based on the multiple third-party engineer studies that have deemed the aging dams as ‘unacceptable for continued use.’
He said the GBRA is working with the Guadalupe Valley Lake associations and communities to find a viable solution.