HISTORY OF TOWN BLUFF DAM/B.A. STEINHAGEN LAKE/R.D. WILLIS POWERHOUSE
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Town Bluff Dam and B.A. Steinhagen Lake, originally identified as "Dam B", was authorized by the River and Harbor Act of 1945 (Public Law 14, 79th Congress, 1st Session). Construction was started in March, 1947; deliberate impoundment began April, 1951; with completion of the dam in June, 1953. Cost was $8,000,000 with $2,000,000 contributed by the Lower Neches Valley Authority. The Robert D. Willis Hydropower Project construction started in March, 1987 and the hydropower facilities became available for commercial operation on 17 November 1989. The hydropower project is a first-of-its-kind partnership between private enterprise and the U. S. Government in that the Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency (SRMPA) paid for the entire project in advance, rather than reimbursing the Federal Government over the life of the project.
The project is one of four reservoirs authorized in the Angelina-Neches Rivers basin. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, formerly known as McGee Bend Reservoir, was completed in 1965. The other two projects, "Dam A" and "Rockland" are classified as deferred. In July, 1967, "Dam B" was renamed Town Bluff Dam and B. A. Steinhagen Lake. Town Bluff Dam is derived from being in the close proximity of the Tyler County of that name. B. A. Steinhagen was a prominent citizen of Beaumont, Texas who was active in initial planning, authorization, and other water conservation activities. The Robert D. Willis Hydropower Project is named in memory of Willis who served as executive director of SRMPA from May 1980 to May 1988.
The purposes of B. A. Steinhagen Lake are to reregulate the intermittent power releases of Sam Rayburn Dam, provide head for hydroelectric power and diversion into a water supply canal, and provide some water storage. The Southwestern Power Administration, U. S. Department of Energy, markets the power and energy generated by the hydropower plant to the Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency for distribution to its customers in Jasper, Liberty, and Livingston, Texas and Vinton, Louisiana. Water releases are utilized by the Lower Neches Valley Authority in Beaumont, Texas, for rice culture, salinity control, pollution abatement, municipal, and industrial uses.
The Lower Neches Valley Authority (LNVA), an agency of the State of Texas, contributed $2,000,000 toward the construction of the Town Bluff Project. In return, LNVA is authorized to draw from the lake a maximum of 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). This water allotment is available to the agency whenever needed, and in the instances of demand, the water is taken directly through the Town Bluff Dam tainter gates. However, if the lake's normal pool capacity is not adequate to satisfy the requirements over an extended period of time, Sam Rayburn Dam can release conservation water into B. A. Steinhagen Lake, which will in turn release the water to meet downstream demands.