Aging steel suspected in failure of Lake Dunlap spillgate, more money needed to fix


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A spillgate failed Tuesday morning at Lake Dunlap near New Braunfels, according to officials with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, and they suspect aging materials may be to blame.

GBRA said the failure of the 91-year-old dam’s spillgate happened at 7:49 a.m. 

“Downstream impacts will see passing river flows of approximately 11,000 cfs (cubic feet per second),” officials wrote. “These flows could pose recreational hazards.” 

It ended up “dewatering” the lake, GBRA said. It is working to determine what caused it to fail but suspects it may have been aging structural steel.

Back in 2016, structural steel members inside the gate failed and led to the collapse of a spillgate at Lake Wood, which is four miles west of Gonzales. GBRA General Manager Kevin Patterson said he is “committed to finding a solution to replace the spill gates at all of our aging dams” but that fixes depend on being able to secure funding.

After the issue at Lake Wood, GBRA started looking into solutions to repair or replace the spillgates and in 2018 it decided to replace them with a more modern gate system. It is working on the design to replace the Lake Wood spillgates and modify the dam’s concrete structure.

The design will take about a year to complete, and two to three years for construction at each site. That would cost about $15-35 million for each dam.

“GBRA’s revenues alone cannot support that level of investment,” GBRA said in a release. “GBRA is continuing to research all available funding opportunities through state and federal resources, as well as stakeholder partnerships.”

Neighbors react

On the Lake Dunlap New Braunfels Facebook page, one person posted a video of what they say is the broken floodgate he said he filmed from his dock. 

“URGENT! The middle gate on the dam just went down. I called GBRA and they are aware,” the user wrote in the post. 

“Recreationalists and other stakeholders on Lake Dunlap and downstream should take emergency precautions,” officials wrote. In a later post, officials recommended that people secure their boats and other property. People living along the Guadalupe River and at Lake McQueeny could be affected by the swift water. 

The lake is expected to drain late Wednesday afternoon, according to GBRA of Texas’ Facebook page. 

Peak river flow has subsided, but stakeholders and recreationalists downstream are still advised to exercise extreme caution as water flows will remain brisk.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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