New Braunfels residents file lawsuit to block river authority from lowering levels of four lakes

Bulkheads and docks at Lake Dunlap now tower over the water level after the spillgate failure May 14.

Bulkheads and docks at Lake Dunlap now tower over the water level after the spillgate failure May 14.

After the failure of two dams in the chain of six that make up the Guadalupe Valley Lakes, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority decided to draw down the remaining lakes beginning Sept. 16.

Two lawsuits filed Sept. 5 in Guadalupe County District Court seek to halt the plan for a 12-foot drawdown that would take place through the end of September. A decision is pending on the restraining order and injunction to keep the lake levels from being lowered.

The GBRA decision to reduce the lakes' levels follows the May 14 collapse of a spillgate at Lake Dunlap, a 410-acre lake that begins in New Braunfels and winds its way into Guadalupe County.

The collapse drained the lake, affecting more than 500 landowners. It was the second spillgate to fail in recent years; in 2016, a similar failure caused the level of Lake Wood to drop dramatically.

As most of the dams were built in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the GBRA has posited the safest solution is to drain Lake Gonzales, Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and Lake McQueeney by 12 feet.

Each lake would take approximately three days to lower, according to the GBRA.

The GBRA said $25 million has gone into dam repairs and maintenance during the 55 years the dams have been under its watch, but each dam would need approximately between $15 million-$25 million to be repaired or brought to safe standards.

GBRA said it coordinated with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the dewatering plan, which was “designed to minimize impacts to the environment.”

“Safety is our top priority,” GBRA General Manager and CEO Kevin Patteson said in a release announcing the drawdown. “We understand this is an unpopular decision, but [it is] one that we feel is unavoidable given the dangers associated with these dams.”

While engineering plans have been commissioned for the dams at Lake Wood and Lake Dunlap, residents and local municipalities will be left to find more permanent solutions, according to the landowners at Lake Dunlap.

Lake Dunlap landowners have researched the prospect of creating their own water district, which would allow the district to tax the landowners at a rate of $6-$8 per foot of waterfront property for 30 years in order to pay for the repairs to the spillgate.

The lawsuits
The two lawsuits against the drawdown plan, brought in each case by several waterfront landowners, seek temporary and permanent injunctions and ask for more than $1 million each in monetary relief.

One lawsuit alleges Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher told several property owners “that the reduction in real property values along the Guadalupe River will be at least 50% if and when the remaining levees fail.”

The lawsuit said the drop in values will affect the ad valorem taxes collected by school districts by millions of dollars. It claims GBRA acted in secrecy and violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act when deciding to dewater the lakes.

The lawsuit says GBRA’s claim of doing so for safety reasons is without merit because after the Lake Dunlap collapse, waters rose 1-1.5 feet and did not create further issues.

The GBRA stands by its claim that the dams are unsafe, citing its work with engineers on the problem. Officials said people often ignore signs and buoys warning of possible dangers.

“GBRA is committed to working closely with the lake associations and communit[ies] to mitigate the impact of this difficult, but necessary decision,” Patteson said in a statement.

The next step will be a court decision. More information will be available at


New Braunfels City Council and the New Braunfels Economic Development Corp. are working to bring an automotive plant to New Braunfels. (Courtesy Fotolia)
City Council approves economic package to help bring automotive plant to New Braunfels

The project is expected to create more than 500 jobs by 2031.

Michael Wehman, New Braunfels Assistant Fire Chief
New Braunfels Fire Department selects new assistant fire chief

Michael Wehman is a 28-year fire service veteran who most recently served as NBFD battalion chief.

Common winter allergies in Texas are caused by pollen from the Ashe juniper—also known as a mountain cedar. The tree is native to the area. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
As pollen counts rise in Central Texas, learn about cedar fever and allergy prevention

As temperatures cool heading into the winter season in Central Texas, pollen counts from Ashe juniper trees begin to climb, causing seasonal allergies referred to locally by residents as “cedar fever.”

The deadline to file for the March 2020 primary in Comal and Guadalupe counties is Dec. 9. (Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
Comal County, Guadalupe County candidates meet Dec. 9 deadline to file for 2020 primary

A long list of candidates will be vying for elected positions in the 2020 election. The deadline to file for the March 3, 2020 primary election is Dec. 9.

The Comal County courthouse is lit up in downtown New Braunfels for the holiday season. (Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
Comal County announces holiday closures

Comal County residents should be aware that the holiday season may affect operation hours at various county offices. In observance of the Christmas and New Year's holidays, these Comal County offices will be closed or have adjusted hours:

A Subway restaurant is coming soon to The Shops at Clear Springs in New Braunfels.
Subway restaurant coming soon to The Shops at Clear Springs in New Braunfels

The restaurant will offer customizable submarine sandwiches and more.

Jeremy Alkire, a senior at New Braunfels High School, has been named a 2019 National Merit Commended Student. (Courtesy NBISD)
New Braunfels High School student named National Merit Commended Scholar

NBHS senior Jeremy Alkire is the only Unicorn to be honored in this year.

Local businesses submitted their wassail recipes for judging at the 2019 annual Wassailfest. (Courtesey Sidecar)
New Braunfels Wassail Meister winners announced

Keller Williams Heritage won first place in the 2019 competition.

The first ever Director of Safety and Security for New Braunfels ISD, Jay Huffty. (Courtesy New Braunfels ISD)
New Braunfels ISD hires first director of safety and security

Huffty previously worked as an administrator for San Marcos CISD.

new braunfels city hall front entrance
New Braunfels solid waste division to host bulky goods drop-off

The city’s solid waste and recycling division will accept residential customers' goods from 7-11 a.m. Dec. 7.

Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke was named 2020 Texan of the Year by the Texas Legislative Conference. (Courtesy New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce)
Apollo 16 astronaut and Brigadier General Charles Duke named 2020 Texan of the Year

A local resident, Duke will be honored March 26 at the New Braunfels Civic/Convention Center.

Rustic Trader is expected to close by the end of December. (Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
Rustic Trader set to close in New Braunfels

The business will close its doors by Dec. 31.

Back to top