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Army Corps of Engineers: Lake visitation climbing

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Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2004 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:13 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Martha Underwood

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON Lake visitation has stabilized but revenue is climbing at both Army Corps of Engineers lakes in Bell County.

Between 2002 and 2004, Belton Lake had 2.5 million visitors annually, and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir has had 700,000, said Dan Thomasson, Army Corps of Engineers lake manager, at the Corps annual lake update Tuesday at the Belton Lake headquarters.

The Corps collected $500,000 in user fees at Belton Lake and $200,000 at Stillhouse Hollow. We are rapidly approaching campground (use) capacity, though the day use decreased slightly, probably because (Fort Hood) troops are deployed, Thomasson said.

Both Lakes Belton and Stillhouse Hollow were built primarily for flood control, Thomasson said. A benefit of flood control is providing a drinking water supply and recreation.

The Corps also spelled out law enforcement, water safety statistics, and updated construction projects and other new programs.

Belton dam prevented $767,100 in flood damage in 2003, for a total prevention of $149 million in flood damage since its construction. Thats pretty good on a $13 million investment, Thomasson said. Stillhouse Hollow dam prevented $250,000 in damage in 2003, he said.

We have lots of (drinking) water, Thomasson said. Belton Lake has 149 billion gallons in the drinking water conservation pool controlled by Brazos River Authority, from which Killeen, Fort Hood, Belton and Temple get their drinking water. Only 6.7 billion gallons were sold from the lake. Likewise, Stillhouse Hollow has 66.76 billion gallons but only 799 million gallons were sold in 2003.

David Collingsworth at BRA said Bell County has enough water through 2050, Thomasson said. The pipeline from Stillhouse Hollow to Lake Georgetown was completed this week to provide growing Williamson County with water. Collingsworth told Thomasson that there has been sufficient rain the past three years so that no additional water was needed in Lake Georgetown during that time.

The Corps provides law enforcement and water safety for public recreational use. Citations are down and arrests are up, Thomasson said. The Bell County Sheriffs Office and Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens provide law enforcement, while Corps rangers and Coast Guard auxiliary provide safety checks and answer help calls.

Three people drowned at the lakes in 2004. Thats three from 3.5 million visitors, but we still want to see that number as close to zero as possible, said Corps ranger Todd Spivey. Since 2000, there have been 14 drownings.

The Corps taught water safety to 3,750 students in grades five and six in 2004, and also participates in courtesy safety checks, patrols the shoreline to prevent cliff jumping, and mans booths at the Bell County Boat Show and the Wildlife Expo to be held in Austin Oct. 2-3.

Updates were given on construction projects. About $400,000 in new facilities at Live Oak Ridge Park Lake Belton dam are completed. The new bridge to Gatesville over the north end of Belton Lake on Texas Highway 36 is proceeding on schedule.

White Flint Park closed in May to improve the road, provide new restrooms and add 13 recreational vehicle camp sites and screened shelters. Westcliff Park was also upgraded, and other projects are in progress.

The upgraded campground reservation system has expanded sales channels, ranger Robert Waznik said, and payment may also be made by credit card. In 2005, the campground reservation system will also handle all National Parks, National Forests, and Bureau of Land Reclamation sites, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds.

The Corps Arc View Program, operated by Ranger Murray McCarley, was reviewed. The computer program uses old maps, aerial photography and park boundary overlays to assist park planning and homeowners around the lake. It also provides information to history buffs inquiring about land use now under the lake.

Thomasson concluded by noting the importance of working with area agencies. The chambers of commerce promote both lakes, he said, which increases spending by $41 million within a 30-mile radius of the lakes and supports 1,141 jobs. The Corps also seeks to mesh its trails system with area plans for county-wide hiking trails.

To offset government budget cuts, the Corps also is seeking to expand their volunteer programs and streamline operations, Thomasson said.

Contact Martha Underwood at marthau@kdhnews.com

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