Low lake affecting seawalls

December 4, 2013

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As the level of Lake Granbury sinks ever lower, some homeowners are finding it harder to keep their heads above water.

County officials, meanwhile, are worried about wildfires that could occur because of acres of dead brush where the lake used to be.

Seawalls at lakefront homes are collapsing due to pressure changes caused by the sinking water line. Homeowners are watching their investments crumble along with their retaining walls – and their dreams.

“It’s an absolute nightmare,” said Anne McNutt, who owns a house on Mallard Way that she finally took off the market after 14 frustrating months.

“People say that lakefront homeowners are ‘whiney,’ but the whole city of Granbury is at stake and people just don’t seem to get that,” she said. “We didn’t get here by a big inheritance. Most of us have just worked hard all our lives and saved money so that we could live on the lake.”

As the shrinking water level is being blamed for seawall woes, it has also created another problem – one that can pose a significant danger to the public, county officials fear.

Cattails that have sprouted where the lake used to be and are now dead because of frost could be tinder for wildfires.

“There’s 6- to 8-foot-tall cattails and grass on the north end of the lake. These are 6- to 8-foot trees basically. What are we going to do about fire protection?” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Berry, who inspected worrisome areas with fellow Commissioner James Deaver and Fire Marshal Ray Wilson on Monday afternoon.

“These were manmade canals that were allowed by the Corps of Engineers with the approval of the BRA (Brazos River Authority).”

Berry said that Wilson had called him out of concern over the potential hazard.

“The channel on the north end of the lake, there’s no water at all,” Berry stated.

The Hood County News sought comment from the BRA about the situation, but had not heard back from Public Information Officer Judi Pierce by press time. However, river authority officials have said that the condition of Lake Granbury is because of drought, not because of any mismanagement on BRA’s part.

Experts say that most of the state has been in a drought for the past three years – possibly worse than the record set in the 1950s. In particular, 2011 was a bad year in terms of little rainfall and an exceptionally hot summer.

Currently, Lake Granbury is about 8 1/2 feet low and is 59 percent full.

Granbury City Council member Mickey Parson, a neighbor of McNutt’s, said that he began to see erosion around his sea wall last spring. He said that he asked that city crews look at ways to stop erosion underneath city sewers in the canal development.

Parson said that rains cause sand and silt to collect inside the areas where seawalls are separating because of inadequate pressure on the lake side.

“The walls are just eroding on both sides,” he said.

The council member stated that the eroding sea walls are going to affect property valuations.

Joe Williams, head of the Lake Granbury Waterfront Owners Association and Friends (LGWOA), said that the collapsing seawalls are going to be “a continuous problem.”

“These are pressurized walls,” he said. “A hard rain will get water pushing and there’s not pressure on the outside to keep it from collapsing. A lot of people spent $15,000 or more to fix their walls.”

McNutt said that the city’s insurance company sent her a letter stating that the city is not to blame for the sinkhole that appeared around the storm sewer near her house after a heavy rain, pushing silt under her retaining wall.

“It’s just a big, big mess,” she said. “We’re sitting on property that we can’t even sell, not only because of the drought, but because of the sinkhole. The property values are sinking like a rock.”

McNutt said that she and her husband invested $20,000 in a boat and another $25,000 in a boat dock – neither of which they are able to use.

“We have a beautiful home,” she said. “It was our dream home. We had planned on staying there forever.”

McNutt spoke to the Hood County News via cell phone from Florida. She and her husband have bought a home there.Their have abandoned their dream of spending their Golden Years on Lake Granbury.

[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 258

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