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“I told you I wariiL v .\\ , ,,m1 TO 1 , ,!. , UNDERWATER TEXAS From the Depths DURING LAST SUMMER’S DROUGHT, CENTRAL TEXAS lakes Travis and Buchanan fell to their lowest levels in 30 years. By August 2009, Lake Travis was more empty than full, having fallen 54 percent. As the water level fell, long-covered areas of lake bed were exposedand with them, decades-dormant debris full of mysteries and secrets. Police recovered a motorcycle and two cars, one that had been missing since 1988. That was far from the strangest thing that has emerged from the lakes. In 2006, a boater on Lake Buchanan reported a 55-gallon barrel sticking out of the water. When the barrel was opened, police found the remains of a human body stuffed inside. They were eventually identified as those of 79-year-old Charles Maynard Wyatt, a colorful character who was convicted of being part of one of the largest marijuana smuggling operations in the U.S. before becoming a Florida real estate investor. He went missing in 1990, until being found in the submerged barrel, still wearing his familiar diamond ring. There were more ancient finds. A boater on Lake Travis spotted parts of a human skeleton poking out of the mud along the water’s edge. The police passed the bones on to Lower Colorado River archaeologists, who determined that it was the remains of a male, middle-aged, arthritic hunter-gatherer who lived about 1,000 years ago. In Lake Buchanan, the ruins of Bluffton, a 19thcentury town that had been submerged since the completion of the Buchanan Darn in 1937, poked above the surface. Rains last fall have drowned these memories again, for now. ROBERT GREEN A 1984 Nissan ZX is lifted out of Lake Travis PHOTO COURTESY TRAVIS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE READ about the effect of droughts on the lakes at TEXAS FEDERATION OF REPUBLICAN WOMEN EVENT, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF TEXAS 2010 CONVENTION, DALLAS, JUNE 11 the campaign that 9! waste worst way Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison chronic staff shortages led the agency that oversees state schools, the Department of Aging and Disability “holdover.” The policy states that direct-care workersthose who watch over residentscan’t leave until a replacement arrives, for up to eight hours. Direct-care workers who spoke anonymously with the Observer say facilities employ the holdover policy far too frequentlyalmost daily. “I don’t know anyone who works any other job who would stay in a position where you … pretty much give up your life outside of work on a regular basis,” a worker wrote in an e-mail. About half the direct-care workers leave their jobs every year. The turnover rate was one of the main causes of an abuse scandal that has embroiled Texas’ institutions for the disabled since 2005. Last year, the Legislatureprodded by the federal governmentinstituted reforms that included a 12-percent funding increase and added staff. But the holdover policy remained. State officials acknowledge the policy is tough on workers, but say it’s necessary to ensure continuous care for vulnerable residents. Allison Lowery, a DADS spokesperson, says the agency hopes holdover will be used less frequently as staffing levels increase. It will be difficult to raise staff levelsor improve careunless the turnover rate drops. DAVE MANN READ Observer coverage of state school abuse at “When you think about Texas women, one of the words that always comes to my mind is gracious. And we have a gracious and capable and wonderful senior senator from the state of Texas.” Gov. Rick Perry “Rick Perry has a track record.” Hutchison “At the end of it, you’re in a clinch, sweating profusely, and you’ve left everything in the octagon. I’m sure glad when that bell rang.” Perry, referring to his primary with Hutchison “It was like seeing your ex-wife when you’re in the room with your girlfriend. Awkward.” lobbyist assessing the scene, quoted by Wayne Slater in The Dallas Morning News FOR THE LATEST political analysis, read Bob Moser’s Purple Texas at 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG