By Martha Underwood
Killeen Daily Herald
Campsites and picnic areas are under water as local lake levels remain high following last weeks heavy rains.
Many parks at Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes are closed, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the reservoirs for flood control.
The Armys Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Areas holiday lights display, Nature in Lights, is temporarily closed because of road flooding.
Belton Lake was expected to peak at slightly less than 17 feet above normal lake level Tuesday, and Stillhouse Hollow is up about 15.5 feet higher than normal, said Murray McCarley, acting lake manager.
We had to wait to release water until downstream flooding subsided, McCarley said.
The flood gates were opened Tuesday, under a directive from the Army Corps district office in Fort Worth, releasing water at 3,300 cubic feet per second into the Leon River. Stillhouse Hollow began releasing 1,560 cubic feet per second into the Lampasas River on Tuesday. Both rivers join in east Bell County to become Little River.
People are welcome to come look at the lakes but are not encouraged to be on the water, McCarley said. Posts, cables, submerged picnic tables and floating debris will tear up a boat pretty bad.
Boaters launch at their own risk, he said.
Low areas on the BLORA Nature in Lights driving tour are also under water. As soon as water returns to safe levels and ground saturation is safe, we will definitely open, said spokesperson Kim Parker.
BLORA will assess conditions and move around some light displays, if necessary, so everyone will get the full experience of Nature in Lights, Parker said. Pending weather complications, she expects that to happen well before Christmas.
Bridge construction on Texas Highway 36 over the lake from Temple to Gatesville has been slowed, because of high lake levels, rain and the swift water flow entering the lake. Several bass tournaments have been canceled, McCarley said.
This year will probably be a record wet year, McCarley said, with annual rainfall so far topping 54 inches. He does not expect the lake levels to be down to normal for several months.
The average annual precipitation in Bell County is 34.9 inches, according to the Texas Almanac.
Many parks on both lakes are partially or entirely closed because of flooding. A complete listing is on the Army Corps Web site, www.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/. Click on reservoir control, closure information and facilities closures report.
Contact Martha Underwood at firstname.lastname@example.org