The Hunt County Commissioners Court voted this past week to provide additional funding to help with the maintenance and upkeep of dams at area lakes.
“We’ve been talking about this a few times,” said County Judge Bobby Stovall as the commissioners considered the measure during Tuesday’s agenda.
The payment funds the preservation of the Pilot Grove Watershed.
The commissioners were scheduled to provide 5 percent of the construction cost of the soil conservation project.
“We’re going to authorize the payment of that money in this year’s budget,” Stovall said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Phillip Martin asked if it was the $60,000 amount the commissioners had discussed previously.
“We’ve talked about it, but we never really did it, the expenditure of it,” Stovall said.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the measure.
“Next meeting we’ll have a line-item transfer because we got the approval today,” Stovall said.
The discussion has been underway for a little more than a year, after a report in July 2019 on the status of the 19 soil conservation lakes in the county.
Some of the dams for the lakes were rated as either “High” or “Significant” hazards and several were reported in extremely poor conditions. The lakes are included in both the Lake Fork Water Control Improvement District and the Pilot Grove Watershed west of Celeste.
While none of the structures were said to be in immediate danger, many of the structures are already beyond their expected life spans.
A total of 11 of the dams, known technically as Floodwater Retarding Structures, are located in Hunt County Precinct 1 and are maintained by a partnership between the Upper Sabine Soil Water Conservation District, SWCD, and Hunt County. The remaining eight in the Upper Lake Fork Watershed are located in Hunt County Precinct 3 and are maintained solely by the SWCD.
The earthen dams range in age from 24 years to 58 years and all were designed with a 50-year lifespan. The dams were built to provide downstream flood protection to county farm and market roads and upstream stabilization of eroding land.
Four of the dams, two in the Pilot Grove Watershed and two in the Lake Fork area, are considered by the State of Texas to be High Hazard. Six more of the dams are considered Significant Hazards.
The ratings don’t reflect the level of potential failure, but what could happen if there was a failure.
High Hazard means if the dam fails, there could be loss of life in addition to the destruction of homes, roads and bridges. Significant Hazard refers to a loss of infrastructure and property.
In 1984, the Hunt County Commissioners Court and the SWCD entered into an agreement to provide $500 per year toward the cost of maintaining the dams.