Friends of Canyon Lake question GBRA's 'progress'

Dear Editor:

Re: "GBRA: Western Canyon project progressing" (Aug 4, 2020). Is Friends of Canyon Lake "trying to create intrigue," as Bill West of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority charges?

Do you trust GBRA with Canyon Lake? It's your lake and your river. Here are the facts. You be the judge.

Fact. In March of 2001, Bill West stood before several hundred people at the Recreation Center, pointed his finger at us, and said, "Let me make it clear. Canyon Reservoir (he insists it not be called Canyon Lake) was built for only two purposes. Flood control and conservationnot recreation." That got everyone's attention, since our fragile central Comal County economy is based on recreation. After all, we all moved here for the lake. The value of lake and river related business revenue is over $1 million per month, according to Water Oriented Recreation District tax receipts.

Fact. Several weeks later in 2001, while appearing in public forums with Bill, I noted that conservation and water diversion are not compatible objectives, whereas conservation and recreation are. Bill immediately changed GBRA's mantra to "flood control and water supply." Now, I have reviewed dozens of Corps of Engineers documents. They are quite specific. Recreation was, and is, an intended purpose for Canyon Lake. That's why we have seven parks, 23 launch ramps, several public swimming areas, five marinas, two military recreation areas, and about 1,000 boat slips. "Water supply" is not mentioned, to my knowledge, in any Corps document.

Fact. While appearing at those public forums with West, he initially stated, "This permit is not going to lower Canyon Reservoir by one inch!" Then he changed that to "one foot." Later, GBRA provided politicians a prepared response to send to constituents which said that "Canyon Reservoir will be at or above 909' mean sea level (the normal level) 90 percent of the time."

But GBRA also appended to that political response a GBRA Fact Sheet, dated March 29, 2001, which admitted that the lake "would be as low as 890' (10 feet below the lowest ever recorded level) about 49 percent of the time." And by interpolation, it will be below that level another 11 percent of the time. What is the truth?

Fact. David Welsch of GBRA personally briefed the board of directors of Lake Canyon Yacht Club to plan for and expect a level of 880' msl. That is 29' below normal. That's almost the height of a typical three-story building! More important, at a level of 880' msl, almost half of the normal volume of Canyon Lake is gone. Is it any wonder we are concerned this may be disastrous to our recreation-based economy, and may cause health and safety hazards? That's why we need an Environmental Impact Statement.

Fact. Please note that the Corps shuts down parks, swimming areas and launch ramps at a level of about 903' msl. Also recall that the lowest level ever recorded is 899' msl. According to topographical information, at a water level 880' msl, we should also expect large areas of the lake bottom to be exposed, with stagnant pools and attendant health hazards.

Fact. GBRA is allowed to pocket money it makes for capturing and selling Guadalupe River water. The money does not go to the state's General Fund. The more water they sell and distribute, the more money they make.

Fact. GBRA makes additional money partially treating sewage and dumping it into the lake. The current GBRA permit is for 100,000 gallons per day of discharge into Canyon Lake. We understand they want to double that permit, and also construct three more sewage plants on the Guadalupe above Canyon Lake. Another citizens' group has been fighting this proposal.

Note: Texas has weak standards on treatment and discharge of sewage. For those of you in New Braunfels or below Canyon Dam who think this issue doesn't involve you, imagine Guadalupe River quality, with the lake at 880' or even 890', with 200,000 gallons of sewage or more per day, and its affect on tubing and fishing below the dam. (Note that the water goes out through the dam from the bottom of the lakethe location of the worst water.)

Fact. When we initially found out about all of this, we talked to staffers in TNRCC (now called TCEQ) and Parks and Wildlife who told us they, too, questioned the advisability of this amendment. But then they told us they had been instructed not to talk to us further. So, we requested copies of internal staff correspondence under the Texas Open Records Act. After two attempts, we received about 100 documentsbut they were about 80 percent redacted (marked out with a wide black marking pen). Obviously, someone in the state ordered affected citizens not to be informed about this issue.

Fact. West states that the price of "Western Canyon Project" water to consumers will be about $3 per thousand gallons. Competent analysts and water company employees have told us this is only GBRA's wholesale price to municipalities. The initial delivered price to you, the consumer, is calculated to be about $5.73 per 1,000 gallons making this perhaps the most expensive water in Texas. Why hasn't West told us the delivered price?

These are just a few of the many, many irregularities we in FOCL have encountered in an exhaustive and expensive quest for truth. From the outset, all we asked for is a routine Environmental Impact Statement so we can see, up front, what harm may result. We estimate is that the 20-plus attorneys of record for GBRA and its interveners have billed more than $3 million in fees trying to discredit Texas citizens in FOCL, and to prevent the routine completion of an EIS. Ask yourself, why would they spend that much to avoid a routine assessment, and discredit citizens they are supposed to serve? That same $3 million could have purchased at least 3,700 laptops for our high school students! What a waste to avoid the truth.

This is why we are in Federal Court. Simply, to get an honest answer. We eagerly await Judge Ferguson's decision before deciding on our next course of action.

In summary, we in FOCL are irked by GBRA's latest attempt to put a smiley face on Certificate of Amendment 18-2074E, now called the Western Canyon Project, and falsely accusing us of misrepresentation. We are not "so-called Friends," Mr. West. Unlike you, we live here. This is our home. We want to both protect and share it. We are, indeed, the Friends of Canyon Lake, and the Guadalupe River.

As designated spokesperson for Friends of Canyon Lake, Inc., a voluntary, non-profit corporation chartered by the State of Texas, with about 1,000 dues-paying members, no paid directors or employees, and supported by dozens of local businesses, I was tasked to provide this coordinated response.

Bob Wickman

President of the Board

Friends of Canyon Lake

P.S. GBRA is engaged in other lawsuits with numerous entities also alleging mismanagement of the Guadalupe River. If you'd like contact information, please give us a call, or see our website at

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