Spillgate stuck open at Gonzales Dam


A broken spillgate on the Gonzales Dam has resulted in Lake Gonzales draining down 12 feet at the dam, preventing people from launching boats into the lake on side of the dam and into the Guadalupe River on the other.

The dam, built in the late 1920s or early 1930s, has two flood gates. According to the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, the spillgates were lowered after recent heavy rains in order to maintain river flows.

One of the spillgates, once lowered, would not return to the closed position.

GBRA hydroelectric and engineering teams are waiting until water clears to allow visibility for further inspection of the non-responsive gate, according to Lindsey Campbell, GBRA public relations and communications manager.

The situation did not create a flood threat.

The lake was created by the construction of the dam. The lake if located about 112 miles west of Gonzales off U.S. 90A. It covers 696 acres.

The GBRA oversees the water resources in the Guadalupe Valley Basin. It operates nine water and 13 wastewater systems serving more than 350,000 people daily across a 10-county area – including two dams located in Gonzales County: Lake Wood and Lake Gonzales.

Gonzales County Judge Pat Davis addressed the situation during comments at the Wednesday, Aug. 4 called meeting of the Gonzales County Commissioners Court.

In addition to preventing lake and river access for boating, Davis said the fresh-water mussels found in the lake have died off as a result of the low water levels.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Lake Gonzales is home to aquatic plant species alike cattail, pondweed, American lotus, spatterdock, and rushes. Fish include largemouth bass, white crappie, blue, channel and flathead catfish, and sunfish.

Aging Dams

The status of dams throughout the country is among many points of concern on the nation’s infrastructure of highways, bridges, waterways, dams and the like.

While it is responsible for six dams in the Guadalupe Valley Basin, the GBRA, authorized in 1935, did not take over management of the dams until 1963, All six of the dams were built in the 1920s and 1930s.

According to the GBRA, the dams have undergone regular inspections and maintenance. Age, however, is the dominate issue as the dams have exceeded their intended useful life of 75 years.

Evaluations have concluded that the structural steel components are compromised, according to the GBRA.

After previous dam failures, the GBRA conduct drain-downs of lakes to minimize the risk of a major failure. Lake Wood dam suffered a spill gate failure in 2016.

In 2020, GBRA estimated it would cost $180 million to replace all 15 spill gates at its six hydroelectric dams.