Lake Travis boat ramp inches away from opening

For the first time in more than two years the U.S. Drought Monitor no longer lists Texas in the category of "exceptional drought."

That is the worst of the five drought categories.

For those who saw Lake Travis before the drought, the view this year has been kind of sad.

"It's more than sad, it's devastating," said Christine Prater who has lived near Lake Travis for the last 12 years.

The drought has changed life for those who depend on the lake.

"I used to run a bar down the street," said Robert Kinslow who now works as the general manager of the Briarcliff Bistro & Bacon Bar.

As the water dried up so did nearby businesses.

"They basically just lost all their summer business that drug them through," said Kinslow.

Home values have plummeted in the once bustling area.

"What I'm seeing is anywhere from 20 to 40 percent decrease in property values for my waterfront owners because they're not waterfront anymore," said Prater who works as a real estate agent for the area.

People who live and work near the lake have been treading water since the drought.

"We've seen some drought and some flood, but this, of course, is the worst stint of drought that we've been in here lately. It's about as bad as we've ever seen it," said Prater.

This week the rain gave people near the lake a glimmer of hope.

"It looks like it's come up a couple feet in the last few days," said Kinslow.

Spring rains brought the lake up to 630.8 feet. That's the highest it's been since April 2013.

"The rain is helping some. We did notice that it's come up a little bit. There are certain areas of the lake where you can tell," said Prater.

The additional water means the Travis County Parks department may be able to open a boat ramp on the lake for the first time this year.

"We actually drove out here today to see if it was open yet," said Prater.

Travis County Parks District Park Manager Dan Perry said they are still three or four inches away from opening Tournament Point boat ramp at Pace Bend Park.

"When the ramps are open and the park is usable, it's pretty crazy. We tend to stay off the roads and that kind of thing, because it gets pretty crowded and everybody's out here having a good time," Prater said.

If and when it does open, it could bring a much needed boost to the struggling economy.

"We don't really know what to expect, but anticipation tells us that we will be very busy once people find out that that ramp is open for sure," said Kinslow.

People who live nearby hope, with a bit more rain, this year this could be the beginning of the end of a very thirsty lake Travis.

This week's rain hasn't trickled all the way down into the Edwards Aquifer quite yet. The aquifer collected about two inches Thursday, but has not seen any significant increase. However, geohydrologists said they should be able to make it through the summer without falling into drought.


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