By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – Army Corps of Engineers park ranger Murray McCarley told Bell County Commissioners in their regular meeting Monday morning that Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir and Belton Lake would be back to their normal levels in 65 days if the weather stays hot and dry.

"We're getting calls all the time from people who want to know if the parks are open yet. We have to tell them it will be a while," he said.

McCarley said that after the last similar floods in the early 1990s, even after the lake levels were down, it took two years to repair everything in the parks. Many structures are still submerged and cannot be examined, but officials anticipate $3 million in damage.

"The dams on both lakes – built on Belton Lake in 1954 and Stillhouse Hollow in 1968 – are for flood control," he said. "Later, money was authorized to develop recreational facilities, but the recrational function is secondary."

Water from Belton Lake flows into the Leon River, and Stillhouse Hollow discharges water into the Lampasas River. Both have narrow channels compared with the Brazos River, where some other dams are, McCarley said, "... and we can only reduce Lake Belton's level by four inches a day and Stillhouse Hollow's by six to keep the rivers in their banks."

He said that with the hot, dry weather, evaporation is reducing the lake levels by another half inch a day.

Most services at marinas are shut down, but boaters are able to launch directly from roads in some places. Boating is dangerous, though, because of debris and submerged structures. McCarley said the color of both lakes is brown, compared with their usual blue-green.

At midnight Sunday night, Belton Lake stood at 626.87 feet above sea level, about 32 feet above its normal elevation of 594 feet. Its spillway elevation is 631 feet. The lake was receiving 1,990 cubic feet of water per second from the Leon River upstream and 31 CFS from Cowhouse Creek. Its outflow downstream was 5,830 CFS.

Stillhouse Hollow, with a spillway elevation of 666 feet and a normal surface elevation of 622 feet, was elevated to 657.32 feet at midnight Sunday. It was receiving 270 CFS from the Lampasas upstream, and 3,400 CFS were being released.

McCarley said the Corps of Engineers is still logging extensive overtime while the lake levels are being managed. When the waters recede enough, they plan to make as much use of volunteers as they can for cleanup work that doesn't have to be handled professionally. Pointing to fields full of driftwood on a Powerpoint presentation, he said, "If you know of anyone who makes art with driftwood, tell them to come on out and get it." He also showed trees whose trunks are still underwater and said many of the smaller ones with too many branches and leaves submerged are dying, but the larger ones can be expected to survive.

County emergency management coordinator Dennis Baker said a Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile office will be at the Salado Civic Center for four days this week to interview individuals who suffered damage due to flooding. He said 256 people had registered for assistance and 90 had been approved for a total of $295,711 for assistance with housing and other needs. The county is still waiting for an answer on a request to date its disaster status from May 23 instead of June 16.

Baker said FEMA had set Aug. 3 as a closing date for flood-related damages.

In other matters, commissioners repeated last week's announcement of a public hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the county courtroom on the proposed 2008 tax rate of 37.95 cents per $100 valuation, .2 cents less than last year's. The road district tax is projected to remain the same at 2.95 cents.

The second public hearing is planned for 9 a.m. Aug. 20. Also at that time, commissioners will present the budget and hold a public hearing on it and schedule a meeting to adopt the tax rates. The tax rate and budget will be finally adopted during the regular meeting at 9 a.m. Aug. 27.

In work on the North Annex in Belton, commissioners approved a change order to allow $8,687.72 to Jamail Construction for renovation of the Bell County Extension Office.

The approved renewal of the contract is between the county and Central Texas Information and Referral/2-1-1 to compensate the county for providing a full-time human services employee to take 2-1-1 inquiries about social services. The contract includes a 7 percent raise for an employee.

In business presented by county engineer Richard Macchi, commissioners approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Troy to seal-coat various city streets, clean ditches along a part of Lower Troy Road and blade a part of Turkey Road. Troy will pay for equipment use and reimburse the county for asphalt. They also gave final approval to a plat for Eagle Oaks at the Lake, a 19-lot, 13.57-acre subdivision in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city of Temple.

Contact Don Bolding at or call (254) 501-7557

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