The operation of the Lake Limestone dam needs to be changed so that the constant flooding it causes can be reduced in severity and frequency.
According to National Weather Service records, the lake has flooded my partnership land 38 times in the past 20 years, sometimes for six months. It has covered all but about five of 126 acres. The operational releases also block and damage the county roads and bridges in several places.
The operational releases of the dam destroy any useful recreation and the economic value of the land downstream. I believe, based on research and speaking with experts, that Lake Limestone releases can be managed better to stop almost all the avoidable downstream damage.
The Brazos River Authority management asserts that it is not possible to maintain the Limestone lake level below 363 feet. A check of lake history with the National Weather Service records reveals the lake has been consistently below 363 feet. Obviously, during droughts, the lake continued to function.
The lake is not designed to be a flood-control lake, but there is a flood stage listed by the United States Geological Survey at 370 feet, seven feet above the 363-feet-pool level in which spokespeople have said beyond which is unsafe. The lake level can rise safely to the flood stage of 370 feet as it was designed, or it would have been set at 363.
Brazos River Authority management says that there is no greater release of water downstream from the dam than that taken in. The problem is the velocity and the volume of the releases. Nature, without the dam, would start releasing water as the rainfall begins. Runoff immediately starts gently into the river and starts flowing immediately, not after it accumulates and then, like a beaver dam, bursts and floods everything downstream.
Nature has cut the river channel to accommodate its flows. The river authority has not done anything to accommodate the flows.
My neighbor has property that has been in the family for 150 years. Her grandfather was able to farm the land productively. The flooding was not significant enough to prevent him from raising crops and cattle for his livelihood. Only in the recent past, since the dam has been built and the management of the lake has gone off track, has the productive use of the land been curtailed significantly.
Authority management asserts that if you are in the floodplain you need to expect flooding. That is not true. Landowners along a river expect flooding from nature, not from operational releases completely controlled by man. The current management of the dam, I believe, in fact constitutes a government taking.
Even though flood control is not a Lake Limestone mission, flood control is inherently part of any dam’s function, because effectively managed releases can be controlled to the advantage of all.
There is no physical difference between a lake built for flood control and one built for water conservation. Only human lake management is different. The dam makes a lake for both and someone controls the flow.
The operation of Lake Limestone must be changed. The abuse of the thousands of acres downstream must be stopped.
The downstream landowners are paying the price to have boats float in Lake Limestone.
Mike Southerland lives in Bryan.