Lake Gonzales Update
August 18, 2021 – The evaluation and inspection of the failed spillgate conducted by GBRA and third-party engineering consultants determined that there are no repair mechanisms available that can be safely accomplished to bring the gate back into operation. Without the ability to repair the failed spillgate, funding will need to be identified for the replacement of the spillgates in order to restore the lake. An exhaustive search for potential funding options has not returned any viable options to date.
Video captured prior to the failure shows a large tree in the waterway that appears to become lodged on the spillgate when passing flows shortly after midnight on August 3. When operators attempt to raise the gate back up nearly five hours later, the gate fails to respond and continues to rapidly drop. The weight of the tree on top of the spillgate and the resulting increase in water pressure inside the gate it is thought to have contributed to the observed issues on the failed spillgate.
All activities that require individuals to be inside or on top of a raised spillgates were halted in the interest of safety following the catastrophic failure at Lake Dunlap. A third-party assessment of the Lake Dunlap spillgate failure determined that the spillgates at all of the hydroelectric dams were compromised due to the significant deterioration of their structural steel components, deeming them unfit for most maintenance and repair activities. While there are no comprehensive repairs short of replacement to sufficiently address the condition of the more than 90-year old spillgates, any of the minimum repairs that could be attempted for the failed spillgate at Lake Gonzales would require the gate to be raised to allow adequate access, and would necessitate operators to be inside, or on top of the raised gate.
Click here to view the full board briefing on Lake Gonzales spillgate failure from GBRA’s Executive Manager of Engineering Charlie Hickman and Deputy Executive Manager of Environmental Science Chad Norris, as well as a Guadalupe Valley Lakes safety update from Executive Director of Administration Vanessa Guerrero.
Lake Gonzales Experiences Spillgate Failure
August 4, 2021 – The hydroelectric dam at Lake Gonzales in Gonzales County experienced a spillgate failure during normal operation on August 3, 2021.
During and after rainfall events, spillgates on the dams are lowered to accommodate the passage of flood waters downstream. The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority has continued to encounter challenges with unreliable operation of the more than 90-year old spillgates along the Guadalupe Valley Lakes, due to the age of the infrastructure. The failed spillgate at Lake Gonzales was non-responsive to operational efforts and was unable to be brought back to its normal height of 12-feet after passing water flows downstream, despite efforts to restore operation by the GBRA hydroelectric operations and engineering teams. An evaluation is ongoing to determine if any repairs are possible to return the non-responsive gate to operations. GBRA environmental field staff is also on site, working in coordination with Texas Parks & Wildlife to relocate aquatic species back into the river channel.
“We are grateful that the spillgate failure at Lake Gonzales did not result in any injuries,” said GBRA General Manager and CEO Kevin Patteson. “This is a challenging situation for everyone involved. We have worked to keep the more than 90-year old spillgates in operation for as long as we could safely do so, but we cannot prevent them from failing. GBRA remains in support of the Lake Gonzales community as we continue to work with local and state officials in an exhaustive search for potential funding options.”
Lake Gonzales, along with Meadow Lake and Lake Wood, do not have the tax base and development to support the creation of a Water Control and Improvement District (WCID) – which has served as a solution to funding the necessary replacement of the aging infrastructure for three other Guadalupe Valley Lakes. Further, the Guadalupe Valley Lakes do not serve a purpose in flood control, because they have no room for temporary storage of flood waters, so they do not qualify for any existing state or federal flood relief programs.
Built in the 1930’s, the spillgates on the dams that form the Guadalupe Valley Lakes have surpassed their useful life, as evidenced by spillgate failures at Lake Wood in 2016 and Lake Dunlap in 2019. With the hydroelectric dams having operated at an unsustainable deficit for more than a decade, GBRA cannot support the necessary replacement of the spillgates in the absence of state and federal funding assistance and stakeholder partnerships. GBRA has supported efforts made by the lake associations at Lake Dunlap, Lake McQueeney and Lake Placid to create WCIDs to fund the necessary replacement of the spillgates, as well as the annual maintenance and operation.
More information, including the latest updates on the Guadalupe Valley Lakes, is available at GVLakes.com.