Publisher’s POV

GBRA must be eliminated


Last week there was stunning news out of Seguin.

A press release from the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) announced to the state of Texas that the GBRA would be draining the last four lakes in their statutory jurisdiction in order to protect the safety of people who may be using the lakes close to the still functioning dams.

The release stated that due to the failure of the spill gates at Lake Wood three years ago and Lake Dunlap this year, the GBRA is worried other failures are imminent and in fact will occur. For those safety reasons alone, the GBRA has decided the best course of action is to drain the remaining lakes before something tragic happens in the future.

I think this is the last best alternative on GBRA’s part—no one wants anyone to get hurt or drown. I understand and support that decision as far as safety is concerned.

Nevertheless, the action by GBRA masks their utter failure to maintain the dams on those lakes as they are statutorily required to do. They have not modernized the dams. They have failed on this issue for decades going on a century. Now they site minor improvements over the years in defending their malfeasance. That is dissembling on their part.

They have had almost a hundred years to figure out a workable plan to maintain the dams, but they never have. They have thrown up their arms and claimed they couldn’t find a way to fund the maintenance and necessary improvements. Yet they could find over $7 million dollars to build a new building in New Braunfels for management and staff.

Are you kidding me? This is a complete failure on the management of GBRA to do its  due diligence and  statutory duty as required by law. It is a failure of the most contemptable sort, because their negligence over the years is going to hurt the property owners, school districts, and municipalities that are served by those dams.

The decision to drain the lakes will hit property owners with up to a 50 percent loss in property value. Boom! Just like that their property has lost a substantial amount of value. People who moved there with the expectation of having a lake have just been blind-sided. After Lake Wood’s dam failed, the GBRA said they would look into the matter and the dam would be repaired in a few years. The price tag quoted was $5 or 6 million dollars. Now after Lake Dunlap’s dam failed, the price tag jumped to an astounding $25 to 30 million per dam. Who is kidding who here?

The decline in property values means the school districts, the emergency service districts, the municipalities where the dams are located and others will see a severe drop in anticipated tax revenue necessary for operations. Tough decisions are coming for all of those involved.

That is the impact the draining of these dams is going to cause. And it is a crying shame because of poor management and planning in the past. The Texas Sunset Commission cited the shameful mismanagement in maintaining the dams and other GBRA property in their scathing report to the legislature in the last year. They just don’t get it.

This is what we get for listening to the leadership of GBRA over the years.

Therefore, I think it is time for the GBRA to be disbanded. The state of Texas needs to get involved in this situation and come up with a better idea for management and maintenance of these watersheds. Life has evolved since the 1920s when the GBRA was created primarily to provide hydroelectric power. The 1920 plan was also intended to increase recreational opportunities with the lakes created from the dams. GBRA built the dams, created the lakes, and then sold the property to people promising to take care of the dams and lakes. They definitely have failed to honor their obligation to all of these folks.

It is time to come up with a different model and plan for watershed control and use. It is time to develop a new plan using dams as recreational opportunities and flood damage control. Water is our most precious resource and it must be properly managed. With the enormous growth of population in our part of Texas, how the water resource is managed is going to become an increasingly more difficult issue to deal with.

So my solution is to disband the GBRA, have the state of Texas develop new legislation that addresses the use, allocation and sale of the watersheds, and rebuild the dams for flood mitigation and recreational opportunities.

There is no time to waste. The GBRA has failed its statutory obligation to maintain the infrastructure it was given, and they have failed miserably and continually. It is time for this entity to go away. The governor and the legislature must fix this problem. The management of GBRA will not.

The people of this part of Texas deserve a hell of a lot better than they are getting from the bureaucrats who have mismanaged this entity for years. It is time for a change. So just do it.