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Central Texas river authority, lakefront property owners reach settlement to avoid draining four lakes — for now

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and property owners in Guadalupe and Gonzales Counties agreed to not drain four lakes held up by 90-year-old dams, on the condition that recreational use of the lakes is banned.

An aerial shot of the dam on Lake McQueeny near Seguin on Aug. 30, 2019.

State officials and lakefront property owners north of San Antonio agreed to not drain four lakes whose 90-year-old dams are at risk of collapsing, under the condition that people must stay off the lakes.

Hundreds of property owners, represented by two attorneys, filed suits seeking to stop the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority from draining Lake Placid, Lake McQueeney, Lake Gonzales and Meadow Lake. Two other lakes, Dunlap and Wood, were already drained after floodgate failures on each of their dams in May of this year and 2016, respectively.

"The settlement in the Guadalupe Valley Lakes litigation helps the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority achieve its immediate priority of ensuring the safety of those on and around the lakes while simultaneously continuing to work collaboratively with key stakeholders to preserve their long-term sustainability," the river authority said in a statement.

A judge blocked the river authority last Wednesday from lowering the dams that hold up the four lakes. That work was originally set to start Monday morning, with Gonzales followed by Meadow, Placid and McQueeney over the next two weeks.

Monday's agreement is a 12-month temporary injunction to leave the lakes as they are while plans are hashed out to replace the aging floodgates on the dams, according to the settlement. Built in the 1920s and '30s, the dams were only supposed to last about 75 years.

Residents previously blasted the river authority for failing to tell them about the poor condition of the dams before its decision to lower them with one month's notice.

"Today’s settlement protects our community and economy, and will bring all sides to the table to find meaningful, long-term solutions to save our lakes," Lindsey Gillum, a Lake McQueeney homeowner and member of the Friends of Lake McQueeney, said in a statement.

Law enforcement officials, as well as officials from Guadalupe County and the state, will monitor the lakes while the injunction is active to ensure people stay off of the lakes, according to the settlement.

The river authority tried previously to keep people away from the dams, which it feared would collapse at any moment, but said people ignored the warnings.

The river authority also said it lacked the funding to replace the floodgates on the dams, saying the funding would have to come from hydroelectric power sales, but the dams don't produce enough energy to raise the up to $180 million needed to fix them.

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