Austin task force considers flood mitigation options

The city of Austin's Flood Mitigation Task Force meets Feb. 16.

The city of Austin's Flood Mitigation Task Force meets Feb. 16.

Attendees at the city of Austin flood mitigation task force's Feb. 16 meeting at One Texas Center on Barton Springs Road heard a staff presentation on the drainage utility fee as well as communications from members of the community who have been affected by flooding in the areas near Onion Creek, Williamson Creek and the Grover Tributary.

The task force is split into working groups that are examining funding priorities, operations and maintenance strategies, and buyout policies to help with flood mitigation in the Austin area.

The group is working to develop recommendations to present to City Council in the spring, according to task force member Matt Rienstra. Two residents were appointed to represent each of Austin’s 10 geographic City Council districts and the mayor.

Onion Creek neighborhood resident Bill Welch, who attended the Feb. 16 meeting, said he has a bird’s-eye view of the Onion Creek golf course from his home and has witnessed flooding increase and become more frequent over the years.

Welch is a former director of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, which is charged with preserving the water that comes through the aquifer and making sure it is recharged and providing sufficient flow into Barton Springs, he said. He urged the task force to remember to take on simple solutions when writing its report.

“There has been little to no action taken since the first deadly flood a few years ago … and yet we’ve had enormous loss of property and life, and it’s shameful,” he said, adding he is an advocate for clearing the floodways of debris.

Removing the debris from the creek will allow the water to flow, which is not a long-term solution but could help to prevent some damage, he said.

Williamson Creek-area resident Patti Riggs also recommended the city work to clean out debris. Options for the labor include bringing in incarcerated individuals to come out and clean out the creek beds, or implementing an “Adopt a creek” initiative similar to that of the existing “Adopt a highway” program, she said.

“This can’t be put on the citizens’ backs. The city has the equipment, they have the tools [and] they have a labor force that I think could really provide some meaningful work so that we can get ahead of the floods,” Riggs said.

The next meeting of the task force will take place March 1 at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, at 6 p.m. For more information visit www.austintexas.gov/fmtf.