Updated flood plain standards cause budget shortfalls, scheduling delays for Travis County bond projects

Updated flood plain standards have led to unforeseen costs among Travis County bond projects.

Updated flood plain standards have led to unforeseen costs among Travis County bond projects.

Travis County commissioners are considering hiring a drainage consultant to help sidestep a lengthier and more costly Federal Emergency Management Agency approval process for changes made to the 100-year flood plain. County staff explained the costs and benefits of doing so at June 25 meeting.

Commissioners adopted updated flood plain standards for land development in April based on the publication of a federal study called Atlas 14 that shows intense rainfall has exacerbated the threat of flooding in Central Texas.

Commissioners will vote on whether to hire an outside consultant at their next meeting July 2.

Proposing a workaround


FEMA, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program, requires communities seeking alteration to a flood plain to obtain a Conditional Letter of Map Revision from the agency.

Travis County regulations for flood plain management also require a CLOMR to be obtained any time there is a proposed project within the limits of the FEMA flood plain.

A number of projects in the county’s 2017-22 bond program fall under this category.

The CLOMR process typically costs between $30,000 and $40,000 and takes nine to 12 months, causing extra costs and scheduling delays for affected projects, according to a brief prepared by county staff.

“So you can see what this is doing to our accelerated bond program,” Stacey Scheffel, Travis County certified flood plain manager, told commissioners.

As an alternative to the CLOMR process in which FEMA vets projects, the county is able to hire a drainage consultant who would assist its staff by reviewing its hydraulic analysis and assessing whether the flood plain will be altered.

County staff estimate the cost of hiring a drainage consultant to be between $5,000 and $6,000, Assistant Public Works Director David Greear said.

If the consultant confirms county staff’s calculations are correct and the flood plain is not changed or affected, the CLOMR requirement could be waived, according to the brief.

“This is a belt and suspenders,” County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said, adding she expects the consultant to find the county’s calculations to be correct.

Other budget concerns


In addition to the costs incurred by the CLOMR process, or alternatively by the hiring of an outside consultant, the county’s updated flood plain standards have affected projects’ budgets in other ways.

“For neighborhood drainage projects, the Atlas 14 effects are more significant than single-point improvements, such as a bridge replacement or new roadway alignments, since the affected area is much larger and more complicated,” staff wrote in the brief.

Commissioners can either vote to phase improvements over time to spread the costs over multiple budget cycles, pursue a design to a smaller rainfall event but provide improvements to a larger number of affected homes, or pursue additional funds to design all phases to a 500-year flood event.

“This is what makes our job so difficult,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said.

Funding the bond projects to the updated flood plain standards will require the county to cut funding for other programs, commissioners agreed.

“But roads, bridges and drainage are our core functions,” Eckhardt said.

Commissioners will take up the budgeting issues at a future date.
By Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


MOST RECENT

A map of the Bella Fortuna PID
Travis County holds off on making development funds available for South Austin Bella Fortuna PID through payments from future homeowners

Travis County commissioners cited concern that funds would not be used to adequately buy down the cost of homes, making them affordable.

Austin City Hall (Christopher Neely/Community impact Newspaper)
Some on Austin City Council want more of its $272 million coronavirus relief package to go to residents in need

City Council will determine how much to put toward direct financial assistance at its June 4 meeting.

South Austin-based Art + Academy will hold online camps this summer. (Courtesy  Art + Academy)
South Austin children can participate in these online camps this summer

The following Austin-area businesses are offering online or virtual camp programs this summer.

Candidates in the Senate District 14 special election responded to Community Impact Newspaper's questions about their campaigns to fill the vacant seat in the Texas Senate. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Senate District 14 candidates discuss the issues ahead of July 14 election

There are six candidates running in the special election to fill the seat of former Sen. Kirk Watson through 2022.

Travis County judge pushes back against attorney general's reprimand of stay-at-home order

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe responded to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's warning that county coronavirus orders conflicted with the state's.

Volunteers load cars at a distribution event in South Austin on May 28. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Six food distribution events scheduled by Central Texas Food Bank in June

Residents who face food insecurities can drive up with their vehicles for no-contact pickup.

Cap Metro and its community partners have combined to delivery more than 300,000 meals to community members in need. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Capital Metro, community partners deliver more than 300K meals to community

The public transportation agency is teaming up with businesses and nonprofits to provide meals for those in need.

The Austin Central Library will reopen after it was closed for more than two months to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin libraries, in-person pet adoptions to begin reopening June 1

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department will begin opening amenities, but there is no date set to open Barton Springs Pool.

(Courtesy Fotolia)
New school schedules and a road opening: Latest news from Central Texas

Read the latest news from Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of the Central Texas area.

A photo of the Travis County headquarters sign
Austin Public Health officials say they plan to increase support to Latino community, where coronavirus hospitalizations are up

As of May 26, 76 Hispanic individuals in Travis County were hospitalized with COVID-19, representing around 78% of all hospitalizations.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates for Travis County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
92nd coronavirus death reported in Travis County

Active hospitalizations in the metropolitan area dropped from 97 to 88 over the past 24 hours.

The Central Texas Food Bank hosted a food distribution event in South Austin May 28. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Central Texas Food Bank serves 1,071 families at South Austin distribution event

The food bank created the emergency drive-up events to reach more individuals during the coronavirus pandemic.