State legislature taking measures to address dam failures


Representatives from the Friends of Lake Wood Association continue to work diligently toward finding funding for the restoration of the Lake Wood Dam.

Last week, John Pitts — the lobbyist the Lake Wood Association hired — received information from State Representative John Cyrier stating Cyrier was trying to find funding for the Lake Wood Dam, along with the Lake Dunlap dam which recently failed. This is the second dam failure that the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) has been responsible for in three years.

Cyrier noted in his communication that GBRA admitted they do not have the funding necessary to make the repairs to either dam and that GBRA still has not completed its engineering work on the Lake Wood dam that failed three years ago.

Cyrier pointed out in his communication that the state senate has started to address the matter in recently passed SB 8 (see below), but there is only a small window to try and find the funding this legislative session.

What follows is Representative Cyrier’s message to Pitts:

Communications from GBRA readily admit that they do not have the resources to make the repairs to either dam. Additionally, it is my understanding that engineering designs have not been completed for Lake Wood, which failed in 2016. The estimated cost of repair began around $3-5 million, and has steadily increased to its current estimates of $15-25 million for Lake Wood and even higher for Lake Dunlap.

We have continued to work with Representative Zerwas, Representative Larson, Senator Kolkhorst, and others to try to get funding for Lake Wood and Lake Dunlap following the failure last week.

Our office successfully wrote language into SB 8 that will help the state identify and report upon these failures, both locally in the district and across the state. As I'm sure you're aware, outdated infrastructure is a state-wide problem, so the language in SB 8 reflects that as follows:

The water development board, in coordination with the state board and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, shall prepare a report of the repair and maintenance needs of all dams that: (1)  are not licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; (2)  do not have flood storage; (3)  are required to pass floodwaters; and (4)  have failed.

In addition to this language to begin to identify and plan a path forward, we've been working through the appropriations process to allocate funds in SB 500, which is the supplemental appropriations bill. We've estimated the total reconstruction of these two dams at $40-70 million. With there being 14 days left in session when Lake Dunlap failed, it provided a small window of opportunity to get this funding.

We will continue to work on this issue to identify potential funding sources. This is a priority for us and hopefully we can get it across the goal line this session.