Travis County commissioners approve hiring consultant to review flood plain updates

Travis County commissioners approved updated floodplain standards in April 2019 as a result of a national study called Atlas 14. Portions of Spicewood Springs Road, pictured here, often floods during rain events.

Travis County commissioners approved updated floodplain standards in April 2019 as a result of a national study called Atlas 14. Portions of Spicewood Springs Road, pictured here, often floods during rain events.

Travis County commissioners voted unanimously July 9 to hire a drainage consultant to help sidestep a lengthier and more costly Federal Emergency Management Agency approval process for changes made to the county's 100-year flood plain, or the land that is predicted to flood in a 100-year storm, which has a 1% chance of occurring each year.

The county will begin the procurement process to hire such a consultant as a result of this vote.

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.

As a result of the updated standards, an estimated 10 to 15 projects in the county’s 2017-22 bond program will need to be reviewed by the consultant.

At an approximate cost of $5,000-$7,000 per review, the estimated cost of hiring the consultant would be a maximum of $105,000, which could be absorbed by the existing budget, according to a brief prepared by county staff.

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.

The CLOMR process typically costs between $30,000-$40,000 and takes nine to 12 months, causing extra costs and scheduling delays for those projects affected, according to a June 25 brief prepared by county staff.

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.

If the consultant confirms county staff’s calculations are correct and the flood plain is not changed or affected, the CLOMR requirement is waived. Commissioners expect this to be the outcome.
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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.


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