Lake Travis nearing 2009 drought levels

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by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on September 19, 2011 at 9:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 20 at 7:29 AM

LAKE TRAVIS -- As of Monday, getting a boat onto Lake Travis is going to be a lot more difficult.  According to the National Weather Service, 2011 has been the hottest summer in Texas history and has taken quite a toll on area lakes.

On Monday, Travis County Parks closed the Mansfield Dam boat ramp on Lake Travis.  Now, all 11 public boat ramps are shut down due to rapidly disappearing water.

"I was just looking to see how low it was when they closed the ramp because I've never seen it this low before," said Chris Fish. He drove his boat Monday across Lake Travis to see for himself, just how low the lake was getting.  "I've lived here since 1992 and this is the lowest I've seen it."

For those not on the water like fisherman Jonathan Kelly, seeing the huge stretch of uncovered shoreline was a shock. 

"It's incredible how shallow it is right now," he said.  "I've never seen it like this before."

In 2009, Lake Travis reached less than 630 feet above sea level.  Monday's lake level was higher than that by just nine inches.

Lake Travis is just 40 percent full and the Lower Colorado River Authority said it will continue to shrink by a foot a week through October.

The lower lake levels also mean additional dangers have been uncovered for those who use the lake. There are tree limbs and rocks sticking out of the water and the sometimes islands are now a huge mass of land just waiting for boaters to run aground.

When we come out here, we used to could go to different places," said Natalie Banks.  "Now they cut off alot of areas we can't go to and we have to stay further away. It's really amazing, hope it starts to rain."

If this historic drought continues, the LCRA says Lake Travis could be about 624 feet by January and 620 feet by March.  LCRA officials are holding a meeting on Tuesday to discuss how they can manage the water more efficiently.  That may include cutting off water to rice farmers downstream.

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