Two years after a spill gate failed and emptied Lake Dunlap on the Guadalupe river, construction of a newly fortified dam began in May and is expected to reach completion in May 2023.

The road to getting to this point weaved together coordination and cooperation of efforts between the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the creation of a taxing district—the Lake Dunlap Water Control and Improvement District. That district encompasses about 500 residences and businesses along the Guadalupe River from the Faust Street bridge to the dam, WCID President Doug Harrison said.

“We actually got final approval of contract work and everything to start and had the groundbreaking on May of this year, so we’re right at two years from when it broke, to get a district created, get all the government approvals, get a contractual relationship created between that new taxing district and GBRA,” Harrison said.

The district held a public hearing Sept. 21 on a proposed tax rate of $0.20 per $100 of property valuation. The electric utility Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative will purchase hydroelectric power generated by the new dam, and the funds from that purchase will help subsidize the debt service, he said.

“To get all that work done, created, set up and running took two years. It was two long years for the neighbors on the lake with no water, but in governmental terms I was pretty amazed that all came together,” Harrison said.

Voters approved the creation of the WCID in November 2020, and voters who live on or around Lake McQueeney and Lake Placid with aging dams in the Guadalupe Valley Lakes system overseen by GBRA also created their own WCIDs.

The dams were put into service between 1928 and 1932, and in total six hydroelectric dams were built at that time. According to GBRA, all six of the dams have surpassed their projected useful lifespan of 90 years, which had led to increased maintenance costs and unreliable operation prior to the 2019 spill gate failure.

“All the dams are very close to the same age. When they came out and did this project originally in the early 1900s, and they built all of them very fast as part of a big hydroelectric project back then,” Harrison said.

San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corp. has begun the $35 million project that will rebuild all three spill gates on the dam as well as widen the existing structure by 15 feet to include new gates, according to Zachry Construction. New concrete armoring will be installed along the existing 1,500 foot core wall.

Prior to its failure in 2019, maximum depth at Lake Dunlap was 40 feet near the dam. Water recreation has all but ceased since that time.