Public split over flood plan

Published 10:08 am Thursday, September 26, 2013

Some were happy; some were frustrated, but everyone got answers when dozens of residents filled the Austin City Council Chambers Wednesday night to learn more about the city’s flood mitigation efforts.

Public Works Director Steven Lang said residents who lived in the Turtle Creek area can expect more property surveys, soil borings, and project design meetings as engineering firm Bolton & Menk draw up plans for individual properties along the creek from Oakland Avenue West to the Cedar River.

Not everyone was excited about the $4 million project, as several residents expressed concerns about potential berms in their backyards, no protection whatsoever, and potential effects to property.

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“It’s going to ruin my property and my neighbor’s property,” said one woman during the meeting. The woman told Lang and more than 60 residents present that a berm could create a valley within her yard and have a negative effect on her neighbor’s backyard porch.

Lang cautioned residents that mitigation efforts were still in the early stage. The city recently received the results of an engineering study identifying properties to purchase in areas like 21st Street and Seventh Avenue Southwest, and 18th Street and 10th Place Southwest. The city also has plans to build berm walls in certain places, such as near Sacred Heart Care Center.

Each flood wall would be built three feet higher than flooding levels from the 2004 flood, the highest on record in Austin.

Though residents shared their questions and complaints over the mitigation project, some also asked Lang about other flood relief efforts, such as the feasibility of the East Side Lake project and whether the city could make nearby waterways deeper. Lang explained dredging East Side Lake would be improbable as silt would refill the bottom of the lake in a few years, while Turtle Creek and the Cedar River run about as deep as possible already.

Several residents said they were pleased with the update and glad to hear progress is being made by the city under the circumstances.

“The city and Steve made it very plain that there’s some things they have no control over,” said Max Deethardt.

There were also several residents who are excited for the project, scheduled to begin next summer, to get underway.

“I’m about the second-lowest property on the creek,” said Dan Coyle. “I’m all for it.”