FEMA agrees to fund Spring Lake Dam repair

Date of release: 08/25/99

SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — Southwest Texas State University has received commitments of federal funds to make emergency repairs to Spring Lake Dam and to help restore the aquatic ecosystem at Spring Lake.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent of the cost of emergency repairs to stabilize Spring Lake Dam. In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers says it will provide up to $5 million to help restore the natural aquatic ecosystem at Aquarena.

FEMA estimates the cost of the emergency repairs to the dam to be $189,800. The agency says it will pay $142,350 of that amount, with SWT paying the remainder of $47,450. Bill Nance, vice president for finance and support services at SWT, said the university has received indications that its portion will be refunded by the state through the normal legislative appropriation process in 2001.

If construction bids are above estimates, FEMA will pay 75 percent of the difference, as long as the work is related to damage caused by the October 1998 flood.

Spring Lake Dam received extensive damage during the October flood. In May, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) declared the structure to be in imminent danger of collapse and ordered the university to prohibit access to the dam and to the river just below the dam.

That action closed to the public a popular swimming venue, but the university subsequently opened Sewell Park -- a university-owned riverside park immediately downstream -- for use by the general public until repairs could be completed at the dam.

Nance said TNRCC has indicated it will lift the swimming ban when the dam has been repaired in accordance with FEMA’s proposed scope of work.

With funding sources now in place, university officials say they plan to proceed with repairs as quickly as possible in order to stabilize the dam. Once completed, this should allow the reopening of the river immediately below Joe’s Crab Shack. The repairs will include filling a cavity underneath the concrete chute adjacent to Joe’s, and filling holes in the cedar and rock dam beside the chute.

A timetable for construction, though, has not yet been specified. Before work can begin, the project must be reviewed by a variety of state and federal agencies to evaluate historic, environmental, endangered species, archaeological and other special considerations associated with the repairs.

FEMA will assist the university in gaining those reviews and approvals. Engineering on the project will begin while those reviews are sought.

In a related matter, Nance said the Corps of Engineers has agreed to share the cost of an aquatic ecosystem restoration project at Aquarena Center. The Corps funding will help the university remove non-native plant species from Spring Lake and the grounds of Aquarena Center, and to eliminate impervious cover such as some existing buildings and parking lots. The project will also include long-term improvements to Spring Lake Dam designed to better protect the endangered species above and below the dam.

The Corps has agreed to pay for 65 percent of that project up to a maximum of $5 million.

Nance said the Corps was asked to engineer the dam repairs in addition to the ecosystem restoration because the two projects should be coordinated as much as possible.