MEADOW LAKE WCID FAQs
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - Meadow Lake Restoration Project
In March 2023, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) lowered the spillway gates of Nolte dam, resulting in a dewatering of Meadow Lake. The dewatering has had a detrimental impact on the local and regional economy, and use of the lake has been greatly diminished.
There are no plans to replace the spillway gates or rehabilitate the Nolte dam other than the plan advanced by the Meadow Lake Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 (WCID). Residents are concerned about the safety and utility of their waterfronts, as well as the future.
1. The WCID Meadow Lake Restoration Project
(a) What is the plan?
We plan to restore the lake to its original levels by funding the infrastructure improvements needed to bring the Nolte Dam up to current standards, and to keep it maintained and in operating condition in perpetuity.
The Guadalupe County Commissioners Court approved creation of the WCID in November 2022. The WCID includes all tracts abutting Meadow Lake (including all canals and waterways directly connected to and with access by water to the main lake), adjacent tracts owned by the same property owner as the tract abutting the lake, and contiguous tracts with an easement, lease or other contractual/legal right to access the lake, from the spillway between Lake Placid Dam to Nolte Dam.
The WCID intends to assume ownership of Nolte Dam and the related hydroelectric assets from GBRA. By assuming ownership of the Nolte Dam and related hydroelectric assets, the WCID will be responsible for ongoing operation and maintenance of the Nolte Dam. The WCID intends to engage Sorenson Engineering for maintenance and operation of the Nolte Dam. Sorenson is a dam engineering company that has nearly 40 years of experience and manages 25 hydroelectric projects. In addition, the WCID has engaged Freese and Nichols, Inc., a dam engineering firm, to perform dam engineering studies. Based on Freese and Nichols’ preliminary dam engineering study on the proposed Obermeyer system, the projected cost of the Nolte Dam rehabilitation project is approximately $19.9 million, including a substantial amount of contingencies.
For a discussion on the tax impact to you, please see “Property Taxes” below.
On November 7, 2023, registered voters in the WCID will be asked to vote for authorization of bonds to fund design, construction and rehabilitation of the Nolte dam improvements, and to authorize debt service taxes to pay debt service on the bonds issued to fund the design and repair of the dam, to fund dam maintenance and operation costs, and to fund administration costs of the WCID.
(b) Are there any other sources of external funds?
The City Council of the City of Seguin has adopted a resolution expressing its intent to contribute $5,000,000 to costs of the project. The WCID has also coordinated with GBRA and the City of Seguin to submit a grant application to the United States Department of Energy to obtain up to $5 million in federal grant funds for rehabilitation and restoration of hydroelectric assets, along with other applications for funding.
The WCID also contemplates acquiring ownership of the hydroelectric facilities from GBRA. Acquisition of such assets would allow hydroelectric revenues to be applied to the costs of maintenance and operation of the dam facilities.
(c) What is the status of our contract with GBRA?
We have finalized a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with GBRA setting forth the terms of the conveyance of the Nolte dam and hydroelectric assets to the WCID. After we finalize the MOU, we intend to enter into a binding conveyance agreement with GBRA that reflects the terms of the MOU.
(d) What is the status of our contract with Sorenson?
The WCID intends to contract with Sorenson to provide for the operation and maintenance of Nolte Dam. It is currently contemplated that Sorenson would receive a significant portion of the revenues from the hydroelectric power generation as payment for its operational and maintenance services.
(e) How can I learn more?
A preliminary engineering report that summarizes the proposed improvements and estimated costs is available to the public (see "News & Updates" tab.)
Information regarding the November 7, 2024 election is available from Guadalupe County and is set forth at https://www.co.guadalupe.tx.us/elections/.
2. Meadow Lake Water Control & Improvement District (WCID)
(a) What is a Water Control and Improvement District (WCID)? Why do we need it?
A WCID is a type of conservation and reclamation district empowered by the State of Texas to control and preserve the waters of the State of Texas. A WCID is empowered to finance, build, construct, improve, reconstruct, repair and maintain dam facilities. It is a type of governmental entity, and is governed by a board of directors elected by the registered voters within the District. A WCID is authorized to issue bonds for authorized improvements and to levy taxes upon approval by a majority of the registered voters voting at an election held for such purposes. As all other efforts to seek funding for the dam project have been unsuccessful, the WCID is the only method of funding the necessary capital to make the repairs that have been identified. WCIDs were also created by other communities to finance dam improvements serving their communities, including WCIDs for Lake McQueeney, Lake Placid and Lake Dunlap.
(b) Who are the WCID Board members?
The WCID Board members are as follows:
• Jacy Robbins (President)
• Tess Coody (Assistant Vice President)
• Brent Hammond (Secretary)
• Michael Meskill (Vice President)
• Russell Rinn (Treasurer and Assistant Secretary)
(c) Do they receive compensation?
No, the board members have declined any compensation other than reimbursement of actual expenses so that taxpayer-generated funds are applied directly to the restoration of the Nolte Dam and WCID costs only. There is a law that allows for compensation of directors, but the current board will not be paid at their own request.
(d) What is the role of the WCID in the project?
The WCID would acquire the dam facilities and undertake the repair and construction of the Nolte Dam improvements, levy a debt service tax to repay the borrowed debt on the Nolte Dam construction/rehabilitation, and levy an operation and maintenance tax to cover ongoing WCID expenses. The WCID would also contract with Sorenson for future maintenance and operation of the dam improvements.
(e) Would the WCID provide other services, such as water or sewer service?
The WCID was created to generate the funds to repair and sustain the Nolte Dam in perpetuity and oversee operation and maintenance of the Nolte Dam, all for purposes of restoring Meadow Lake. The WCID has no plans to provide any water, sewer, or drainage services.
3. GBRA’s Role
(a) Would the WCID own the Nolte Dam and operate it or will GBRA still operate and maintain the Nolte Dam?
It is contemplated that the WCID would acquire and own the Nolte Dam, finance the construction and repair of the Nolte Dam, and oversee the ongoing maintenance and operation of the Nolte Dam. After the WCID acquires ownership of the dam facilities from GBRA, it is contemplated that GBRA would have no ongoing role in Nolte Dam.
(b) What are the WCID’s responsibilities in the event of a flood?
The proposed Nolte Dam improvements would enable the gates to be operated remotely, which should both reduce the response time significantly, and mitigate the risks of flood events. It is currently contemplated that the WCID will contract with Sorensen to manage all aspects of the Nolte Dam operations, including flood events.
4. Total Expected Project Cost
(a) What is the total expected cost of the dam restoration project?
Based on the preliminary Nolte Dam engineering study performed by Freese & Nichols, Inc. on the proposed Obermeyer system, the total cost for the dam rehabilitation project is approximately $19.9 million. This includes a significant amount of contingencies.
If the proposed election propositions are approved by WCID voters, then we intend to conduct a final engineering study and solicit contracting bids for the construction work. We will not know the final cost of the project until bids are received.
(b) How much of this total project cost will the WCID landowners bear?
The final cost to WCID taxpayers would depend on the final costs of the project, and the availability of funds from other sources. The City of Seguin has approved a resolution outlining its intent to contribute $5 million to the project. In addition, GBRA has applied to the DOE for grant funds of up to $5 million for the project. Accordingly and based on current cost estimates, we anticipate the total project cost to be borne by the WCID landowners is as follows:
Total Estimated Project* $19,900,000
Less: City contribution ($5,000,000)
Less: DOE grant** ($5,000,000)
Net Cost to be borne by WCID $9,900,000 (with DOE grant funds)
$14,900,000 (without DOE grant funds)
*Per the Freese & Nichols preliminary engineering study, this amount is subject to and will likely change based on the final engineering study and contracting bids.
**GBRA, the City of Seguin, and the WCID have worked together to apply for and obtain these grant funds.
There can be no assurance that the DOE grant funds will be obtained.
5. Property Taxes
(a) What new taxes can we expect to see?
The November 7 bond proposition would authorize the issuance of up to $15.84 million in bonds, authorize the levy of taxes for payment of the bonds, and authorize an “operation and maintenance” tax not to exceed $0.12 (twelve cents) per $100 valuation of taxable property.
The debt service tax legally may be used only to pay debt service on the bonds issued by the WCID. That debt will be very similar to a mortgage, with a fixed dollar-amount of principal debt, and interest paid on that debt of a defined term of years (30 years). The WCID Board of Directors would levy a tax rate each year to pay the debt service that is necessary to pay annual debt service, based on the certified assessed values of taxable property in the WCID furnished by the Guadalupe County Appraisal District. As the total property values go up or down, the tax rate will be set each year so that the annual debt service payment can be made. The law limits the annual amount of the operation and maintenance tax that can be levied without an election.
The purpose of the maintenance and operation tax would be to provide the funds needed to run the district’s operations, which include things like insurance, a website, accounting, audit and legal services, among other routine kinds of administration expenses. To keep operating costs low, there are no staff contemplated, no salaries for directors, and no offices or buildings planned.
The amount of bond authorization in the November bond proposition is $15.84 million. This amount was established based on estimated design and construction costs, the contribution of funds from other sources, and to allow for the issuance of additional bonds to secure emergency funds in the event of a dam or hydroelectric failure over that 30-year timeframe. This number is an absolute ceiling on borrowing. Passage of the bond proposition does not obligate the WCID to issue this amount of debt. The actual amount of bonds issued by the WCID will be based on actual project costs. Bond funds may not be used other than for the dam improvement project purposes described in the bond proposition.
(b) How much will the new tax be?
The amount of tax paid by each property owner in the WCID will depend on the taxable value of property owned, and the tax rates levied by the WCID Board of Directors of the WCID. The tax rates will be set each year by the WCID Board of Directors based on the certified assessed values received from the County Appraisal District. The bond tax rate will be set each year to fund the debt service payment on the bonds that becomes due the next year, and the maintenance and operations tax rate will be established to fund budgeted expenses of the WCID.
If $15.84 million in bonds were issued, using the 2023 property values, and applying the debt service tax rate ($.90) and operation and maintenance tax rate ($.12), the annual tax payment for individual properties appraised at
$100,000-$1,000,000 is set forth below:
(c) What value of my home or land will be used for assessing the tax?
We will utilize the values assessed by the Guadalupe Appraisal District. We will use the “Assessed Value” for purposes of calculating your tax, not the market value.
(d) What exemptions apply when assessing the tax?
As noted above, the WCID tax will apply to the taxable value of property as received from the Guadalupe Appraisal District. To the extent that property has a special appraisal valuation for agricultural or wildlife use, that appraisal would apply to WCID taxes. Similarly, to the extent that property has a homestead exemption, the WCID tax would apply to the net taxable valuation of the property received from the County. Different exemptions apply to different taxing units so the net appraised value for the WCID may not be identical to the appraised value used by other taxing units. The “property tax freeze” that is applicable to school district taxes for persons over 65 does not apply to water district taxes.
(e) Can WCID taxes increase or decrease over time?
The amount of taxes paid by any owner of property may change over time based on the appraised value of the property and the WCID’s tax rates. The actual amount of taxes paid by each property owner would be equal to the product of the assessed valuation of the owner’s individual property multiplied by the WCID tax rate. Changes to the appraised value of property or changes to the tax rate could change an individual property owner’s payment obligation.
The WCID debt service taxes would be levied annually based on certified values received from the county as necessary to pay debt service on the WCID’s outstanding bonds. The WCID maintenance and operation taxes would be set by the WCID Board of Directors each year as necessary to fund budgeted expenses. The maintenance and operations rate cannot legally exceed the rate in the election proposition, which is $0.12 per $100 assessed valuation. Also, Texas law provides for a “rollback election” for taxpayers to limit the annual increase in maintenance and operations taxes for residential homesteads.
(f) How do you pass on the taxing responsibility to a prospective buyer of your property?
That happens just like it does with schools or county taxes. The tax is attached to the property and transfers with it automatically if sold. When you sell, this tax will be handled like other property tax categories (schools, roads, etc.), and will be managed by the county tax assessor/collector.
(g) What happens if I refuse to pay the extra taxes?
The taxes, like all property taxes, will be collected and enforced by your county tax collector. Once levied, they are like any other property tax. There are severe penalties for not paying assessed taxes, including foreclosure of property for nonpayment.
(a) Is there a temporary fix to bring the lake back while working on the long-term repairs?
Sadly, no one has been able to present any viable alternatives acceptable to GBRA that could do this.
(b) I have heard there were different options for repairs. Who decided which option was best?
The WCID evaluated a number of options for the Nolte Dam rehabilitation, including a modified Bear Trap system and the Obermeyer system. After coordinating with GBRA and Freese & Nichols, Inc., the WCID decided to pursue the Obermeyer system.
(c) What is to prevent another dam failure from happening in the future?
Our plan will restore the dam in a way that makes ongoing maintenance considerably safer and much cheaper. The WCID will make it possible to create a maintenance fund in perpetuity, so this dam will be operational for not just decades, but generations to come.
(d) What is the timeline for construction?
The goal is to restore the dam and refill the lake as soon as possible. If the bond election resolutions are approved by the WCID voters, we hope to have the final engineering study by Freese & Nichols, Inc. completed and bids finalized in 2024, and construction beginning in late 2024 or 2025. We hope to complete construction by year-end 2025.
(e) What if the water district is formed and then it turns out that the cost of repairs/replacement is going to be a lot higher than anticipated?
The preliminary engineering work for the Nolte Dam is complete, and the cost of restoring Meadow Lake is estimated at a maximum of $19.9 million. Until we have the final engineering study and actual bids and a construction contract, the $19.9 million is the most accurate number we have for the cost. If the actual cost of the project exceeds available funds, the WCID Board of Directors will not proceed with the project. It is possible that some debt may be issued to fund engineering costs to complete the design so that the construction project may be bid. If this occurred and the construction costs exceeded available funds, then additional bonds would not be issued, but the WCID would remain responsible for debt service on the bonds issued to fund engineering design costs.
(a) Who can vote in the November 7 election?
Any registered voter (including children of voting age and tenants) that is registered at an address within the WCID will be able to vote on election propositions.
The deadline to register to vote in any Texas election is 30 days before the election, or for the November 7th election, no later than October 8. You can learn more here: https://www.votetexas.gov/register-to-vote
(b) Where do I go to vote?
The election will be run by the same county election administrators that run all the local elections and polling places for every election (including state-wide and federal), so Guadalupe County will designate polling locations. Early voting and election day hours and polling locations are available at https://www.co.guadalupe.tx.us/elections/ElectionPrep/2023/11/7/EV_schedule_locations.pdf
(c) What WCID propositions will be decided in the November 7 election?
There will be three WCID propositions on the November 7 ballot. The propositions must pass on November 7 for the current plan to move forward. The actual ballot language appears below:
A. "The Issuance of up to $15,840,000 in Total Principal Amount of Bonds for the Nolte Dam, including its Spillgate Facilities, and the Imposition of Taxes, Without Limit as to Rate or Amount, Sufficient to Pay the Principal of and Interest on the Bonds”
A vote “FOR” Proposition A is a vote to authorize the WCID to issue bonds to finance the restoration of Meadow Lake, its dam, and its hydroelectric capacity, and to levy a tax to pay debt service on those bonds.
A vote “AGAINST” Proposition A is a vote to not authorize the WCID to issue bonds for the project and therefore no debt service tax could be levied.
B. “The Issuance of up to $15,840,000 in Total Principal Amount of Refunding Bonds to Refund Bonds for the Nolte Dam, including the Spillgate Facilities, and Any Refunding Bonds Related Thereto, and the Imposition of Taxes, Without Limit as to Rate or Amount, Sufficient to Pay the Principal of and Interest on the Bonds”
A vote “FOR” Proposition B is a vote to authorize the WCID to refinance the bonds issued under Proposition A in the event the WCID may lower the costs associated with the original bonds due to lower interest rates.
A vote “AGAINST” Proposition B is a vote to not authorize the WCID to refinance the bonds issued under Proposition A.
C. “An Operation and Maintenance Tax not to Exceed Twelve Cents ($0.12) per One Hundred Dollars ($100) Valuation of Taxable Property”
A vote “FOR” Proposition C is a vote to set an upper limit on any taxes related to the operations and maintenance of the WCID, and to authorize the WCID to levy taxes up to that maximum tax rate.
A vote “AGAINST” Proposition C is a vote to not authorize the WCID to levy an operations and maintenance tax.
(d) What happens if the vote does not pass?
All three propositions must pass for the plan to move forward.