Spillway repairs resume at Toledo Bend

Toledo Bend Lake Drawdown

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - For those living in or near the Sabine River Valley, they’ve seen the best of times and the worst of times.

However, some long-awaited spillway repairs which prompted a recent draw down of the Toledo Bend Lake has some residents on alert.

“We were here when they had the record low a few years back and I have a boat dock on the water with my boat in it and it was so low that I couldn’t keep it there any longer," said Mike Wilson.

Wilson and his wife have lived on Toledo Bend for years, so checking lake levels are part of their routine.

“Typically the levels are in a normal range, pretty easy for people on the lake,” said Willis.

Although, with the level down to 166 feet over the last two weeks, some residents have wondered what’s going on.

7News caught up with the Louisiana Sabine River Authority Executive Director, Warren Found who said the low levels are due to continuation of their spillway repair project.

In April, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) directed the Sabine River Authority of Texas (SRA-TX) and Sabine River Authority, State of Louisiana (SRA-LA) to expedite completion of the ongoing spillway repairs.

Found said the repairs are necessary to replace the large rip-rap (boulders) protecting the end of the spillway that were removed or destroyed during previous spilling operations.

It’s a result of a spill in 2016 when we had record water levels, record releases, record river levels..all kinds of records were broken in March of 2016," said Warren Found. “What we thought was maybe just moving a little bit of rock around and patching cement turned into a $9 million project.”

That project was stalled since August of 2018 due to numerous heavy rain events, but Found says now was the best time to start the project back up.

“Next week we’ll turn both units off, so the reservoir should remain close to that level and probably for the next two and a half months until the project comes to a part where we feel like it’s safe to let it start rising again," Found said.

The repair project which began in August 2018 initially began with plans to hold the reservoir level at the 168′ elevation by releasing water through hydro-generation until the project is complete.

Although the low levels signals good news for those who like to fish and not so good news for those who may keep boats docked at nearby camps, Mike Wilson said he prefers to look at the bright side.

“We only worry if the dam breaks,” said Wilson.

In compliance with FERC’s directives, the Toledo Bend Project Joint Operating Board met on April 9, 2019 and approved a temporary lake level draw down, through hydro-generation. The timing of the temporary draw down will be dependent on weather conditions and the contractor’s ability to complete the work.

Since it has been several years since a significant draw down has occurred, this will be a good opportunity for residents along the shoreline to inspect and make necessary repairs to boathouses, piers, retaining walls, and related structures. Construction approval applications for this type of activity can be obtained from the SRA-TX Toledo Bend Division Office (409-565-2273) for Texas residents or from the SRA-LA Pendleton Office (318-256-4112) for Louisiana residents.

Once all the necessary repairs are made to the spillway, the lake will be allowed to return to the regular operating guide as conditions allow.

Found said they expect the project to be finished by November, weather permitting.

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