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Agreement in place to repair dam, restore Lake Dunlap

A partnership between the river authority and lake association aims to restore Lake Dunlap, and could be a road map to finding a solution for the other five lakes.

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — The Guadalupe Blanco River Authority and the Preserve Lake Dunlap Association have reached an agreement to fix and repair the dam and restore Lake Dunlap, months after its collapse through a South Texas community into disarray. Construction is expected to start next summer. 

PLDA board members told KENS 5 that with this partnership in place, Lake Dunlap would be restored in the next few years, which could serve as a road map for finding a solution for the other five lakes.

"I think this is a very viable solution, and I think it’s the only solution," said J Harmon, President of the Preserve Lake Dunlap Association.

The agreement states that engineering firm Black & Veatch "has already been engaged to begin design for a replacement of the Lake Dunlap dam."

The agreement also outlines how costs of the dam replacement will be covered, in a project that GBRA says it plans to closely oversee. 

"GBRA is prepared to issue the debt necessary for the completion of the project with the debt service to be covered by contract with the proposed taxing district," the letter states. "Additionally, GBRA will contribute all gross revenues generated from the hydroelectric system at Lake Dunlap to the proposed taxing district to fund the continued dam maintenance and operations costs."

The proposed agreement will be presented to the GBRA's board of directors on Oct. 23 for a formal approval.

In addition to the partnership with the GBRA, the lake property owners are working to create a Water Control Improvement District that would in turn levy a tax for property owners.

"We have two sources of revenue that are going to help us, one of them is related to the revenue from producing hydroelectricity and the other is revenue that’s related to taxing members of the district," said PLDA Board Member, Dr. Larry Johnson.

After petitions are submitted to create the WCID, voters must approve it through an election.  Harmon said they are hoping that election will take place in May.

"Every body is 100% behind this idea we came up with and now we have to convince our neighbors to vote for it in May, and if it passes in May then we have a new district set up, and that is going to fund our share of the dam," said Harmon.

It's been more than four months since the 90-year-old spill gate at the Lake Dunlap dam collapsed, causing the lake to drain and leaving only a few feet of water behind.

For the last few months, PLDA board members said they've been working with the GBRA to develop this plan. The financial and engineering details of the deal have been confirmed.

"It’s their dam and they are really the people that know about it, you can criticize how the organization has operated in the past, but the new administration are people that really do want to do the right thing, and we have confidence in that," said Johnson.  "And also it’s New Braunfels, it’s the way that we work together."

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Harmon said the group has an aggressive timetable to get the lake back in the next few years. 

Johnson said construction on the Lake Dunlap dam is slated to begin next summer.

"So looking out 30,40, 50 years—this lake will still be here. We’re going to give it a new birth that’s going to have all the pieces it needs," said Johnson. "It’s going to have a piece that fixes it and a piece that keeps it fixed, and the landowners are going to have a say in how all that goes.  None of those pieces were there before." 

"Lake Dunlap is going to be around for generations," he added.

The Preserve Lake Dunlap Association is holding a town hall meeting with the community Wednesday evening to lay out their plans for restoring their lake.

Video captured the precise moment the middle gate at the dam collapsed, resulting in the de-watering of Lake Dunlap: