City close to finishing N. Main project

Published 10:54 am Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The city of Austin is getting closer to completing the North Main Flood Control project.

A reception to open North Main Street and celebrate the latest construction along the Cedar River will take place at 1 p.m. Friday. Public Works Director Steven Lang said the construction along the Cedar in downtown Austin is about 90-95 percent done and should wrap up this spring.

“We’re getting very close,” Lang told the Austin City Council during the council’s public meeting Monday.

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The council approved an agreement with consulting firm Short Elliot Hendrickson to begin research on the North Main Flood Control project’s final phase, which should wrap up in 2017.

The latest construction project would provide freeboard protection to the Austin Utilities downtown power plant, but the city also hopes to extend its levee system into Lions Park to provide protection for another 20 properties near the Cedar River.

The levee would run along the back side of homes at the 700 and 800 block of Second Avenue Northeast and be put mainly on the city’s park property, according to city officials.

Yet with flood mitigation along the Cedar River almost complete, city officials say it’s time to start helping homeowners apply to get properties removed from the floodplain. Council members approved Monday another contract with SEH, for about $164,000, to begin the massive paperwork to get many properties along the Cedar removed from Federal Emergency Management Agency classifications.

FEMA redid flood plain zone mapping over the past few years, which culminated with an official new map unveiled last year. Lang told the council that individual property owners could apply to FEMA on their own, but given the lengthy process and paperwork involved, the city should likely help as many properties at once.

Lang said this project would be funded entirely through the city’s local option sales tax.

In other news, the council:

—Set a public hearing for Nov. 17 to discuss and approve a new downtown master plan. The city of Austin has gone through a consultant for the past few months to adopt a new downtown plan, which will help guide the city’s decisions over the long-term on how best to grow the city’s downtown area.

—Authorized an additional part-time employee for the Parks and Recreation department through the end of 2014.