Sunset Valley considers response to Atlas 14 rainfall study

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Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association released the Atlas-14 rainfall study, which indicated that Austin had a significantly higher risk of heavy rain and floods than current flood maps reflect, the city of Austin has contemplated appropriate action.

As its own municipality, Sunset Valley must address the study separately. Sunset Valley city council discussed appropriate actions on the issue at their June 18 meeting.

An analysis of Atlas-14’s new proposed flood maps by Community Impact Newspaper staff concluded that approximately 1,081 Southwest Austin properties are newly located in floodplains.

In the past, Austin and Sunset Valley have relied on FEMA’s flood maps when establishing development codes. However, according to Travis Wilson of engineering firm Miller-Gray, who presented key takeaways from Atlas-14 to the council, it could be years until FEMA makes adjustments to flood maps.

While waiting for FEMA to update flood maps, neighboring Austin has proposed a stopgap measure to adjust city development codes. Austin City Council is scheduled to vote in October on proposed changes to city ordinance which would adopt a current 500-year flood maps until 100-year flood maps are updated by FEMA. This change would bring regulations much closer to the guidelines laid out in Atlas 14.

A major point of discussion at the June 18 meeting was how Sunset Valley should respond while waiting for Austin to act on the issue.

“We can’t act in isolation from Austin,” said Councilmemer Phillip Ellett.

Several Sunset Valley community members weighed in on the issue, including some who encouraged haste in adopting stopgap measures and discretion when issuing land use variances for developments in floodplains. Others, however, encouraged caution when making adjustments.

Ultimately, the council voted unanimously to send Wilson’s presentation on Atlas-14 to Sunset Valley’s Public Works committee for consideration. Members of the council said they would await the recommendations of the committee.

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Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition. She graduated from Presbyterian College with a bachelor's degree in English and creative writing in 2017. Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio in Columbia, South Carolina before joining Community Impact in Austin.
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