Wildfire mitigation effort showing continued progress in Lakeway

Lakeway City Forester Carrie Burns said Dec. 9 that so far four work days have been completed on the project. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lakeway City Forester Carrie Burns said Dec. 9 that so far four work days have been completed on the project. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)

Lakeway City Forester Carrie Burns said Dec. 9 that so far four work days have been completed on the project. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)

Lakeway staff updated City Council on an ongoing wildfire prevention effort that has been prioritized by officials and involves a weighty volunteer presence, including a deal with a student group from the Lake Travis area called the Young Men’s Service League.

Lakeway City Forester Carrie Burns said Dec. 9 that so far four work days have been completed on the project.

“What you’re looking at is one and three quarters dumpsters filled [during those four workdays],” Burns said of the amount of fuel, or wood, removed from the Hamilton Greenbelt, which is the first portion of the city being worked on.

Burns added that so far, the 341 volunteer hours spent during the first four work days of the project amount to a savings to the city of $8,672.

As the effort moves forward, Burns said staff will need to focus on attaining better metrics on how much work and resources will be required to complete the work on the Hamilton Greenbelt.

“Once we have that, then perhaps we’ll have a better idea of how to estimate what our next steps are in the Hamilton Greenbelt,” she said, adding a likely completion time for the first part of the project would be early November.

Information from the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal shows that area to be at “high to very high” risk of wildfire.

Lake Travis Fire Rescue is providing additional crews for the project that is underwritten by the city's funding allocation for the project, but council also discussed tapping into the Lake Travis ISD student body as another possible volunteer stream in spring 2020, as many will still need to fulfill community service hours required for them to graduate.

Council Member Laurie Higginbotham announced Oct. 21 that the city of Lakeway had partnered with the Cavaliers chapter of the Young Men's Service League. The YMSL, which was formed in 2015 and draws the majority of its members from Lake Travis High School students and their mothers, has made helping with the wildfire prevention effort in Lakeway's Hamilton Greenbelt its main project for the 2019-20 school year. City documents state the YMSL will complete its commitment to the project by the weekend of Dec. 14.

The wildfire prevention effort in Lakeway has proven a topic of major import for the city in recent months. As part of the fiscal year 2019-20 Lakeway budget, City Council made a $350,000 transfer to the city’s wildfire mitigation capital fund.

Relevant funds came from the public safety bond fund, which held leftover monies from Lakeway’s new $23 million police department building.

During the Dec. 9 discussion, council also took steps toward applying for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Andra Bennett, the director of parks and recreation for Lakeway, said FEMA has an extensive repository for funding these kinds of projects, but the process is lengthy, and council guidance would be needed to proceed.

Bennett said FEMA will not allow applicants to apply for a grant in an area already being worked on, so council voted to keep working on the Hamilton Greenbelt with the $350,000 already allocated and to explore options regarding pursuit of the grant to fund other areas of the city planned for the wildfire mitigation effort, including the possibility of hiring a grant writer on a contract basis.
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018.


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