AUSTIN (KXAN) — LCRA recently announced plans to modernize Wirtz Dam at Lake LBJ at Horseshoe Bay in Burnet County.
Meteorologist Nick Bannin spoke with LCRA about the improvements and why they won’t be done as quickly as possible.
Meteorologist Nick Bannin: I’m here with John Hofmann, Executive Vice President of Water for LCRA. John, LCRA just recently announced some big improvements, you’re going to be doing to Wirtz Dam, can you talk about them?
John Hofmann, Executive V.P. of Water for LCRA: We have a $76m, three-year project to replace all 10 floodgates on Wirtz Dam, as well as all of the hoists that we use to raise those floodgates and operate them. That’s an exciting project, because they’re going to allow us to have an increased level of safety and operational ability on our dam.
Bannin: Now, is there anything wrong with the dam now? Or are these just improvements? Can you talk about what’s that’s going to improve?
Hofmann: No, we’re going to update the engineering and metallurgy behind the gate process itself and this is going to allow us to be able to have that gate operational for the next 50 years, okay? So it’s more just increasing the lifespan of the dam by modernizing, modernizing, modernizing, and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing throughout our dam fleet. Over the course of the last several years we spent a lot of time and a lot of money on maintaining these dam structures to ensure that they’re operable, because we’re in flood flash flood alley, as you know, and this project is just one of the projects we’ve been doing on those flood gates.
Bannin: There are 10 gates, right? Why can’t you do them all at once, it has to be one at a time?
Hofmann: Excellent question. So it would be faster to do all 10 flood gates at once, but we recognize that we’re in an area that’s especially prone to flash flooding and so it’s very important that we maintain the ability to operate those flood gates during flood events. So we’ll only do one gate at a time. It may take us a little longer, but it’ll allow us to be safe and to protect our region.
Bannin: Any impact to the community during the construction and updates that you’re doing? I believe people may be set back a little bit more from the dam…
Hofmann: That’s correct. There’ll be a little bit additional area that will be set back from the dam where we’ll have a buoy in place so that boats don’t venture into an area that could be unsafe.
Bannin: Now, this isn’t the only dam you guys have been focusing a lot of your attention on improving. Talk about Buchanan Dam Starcke Dam, some of the work you’re doing there?
Hofmann: Well, we’ve just gone through a process of refurbishing all of 37 of the floodgates at Buchanan. Recently in the last two years, we also did a project at Tom Miller Dam that’s similar to what we’re doing at Wirtz Dam where we replaced all of those flood gates at Tom Miller Dam. And we’ve just been doing some work at Starcke Dam on the hydro units at Starcke.
Bannin: And what’s next after that, anything in the plans?
Hofmann: Well, we continue to have this this project at Wirtz. And we have ongoing refurbishment of our floodgates at Mansfield Dam
Bannin: And I’m sure the work is never done?
Hofmann: The work is never done.