Later this summer, Austin residents and visitors will be able to see an endangered species back in its natural habitat.
Eliza Spring, one of four springs at the Barton Springs Pool that is home to the Barton Springs Salamander, is undergoing a renovation that involves removing a 1920s-era concrete-and-metal pipe that is, as David Johns, the Austin Watershed Protection program manager, puts it, "not in good shape."
Johns said in the past 90 years, the pipe—which was installed underground to maintain the flow of water—has been jammed with tree roots, rocks and other debris, causing blockages in water flow and creating problems for managing the habitat that is home to largest-known population of the Barton Springs Salamander.
The department is busy removing the manmade infrastructure and restoring the spring flow over a natural surface channel, a process called daylighting.
But Johns said the process—which began last November and was expected to finish this spring—has not been easy.
"It's a delicate site," he said. "There's water to deal with in multiple areas."
The Barton Springs Salamander is an endangered species.[/caption]
Now he expects construction to continue until at least July. When the $2.3 million project is finished, Austinites will be able to peer through a fence and see the salamanders, which have been on the national endangered list for more than 20 years.
"I think it'll be visually appealing," Johns said.
Once the project is done, here is where viewers can spot them, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department: Under rocks or in gravel found in the water several inches to 15 feet deep, or hiding in aquatic plants and algae.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department describes the salamanders as slender and long-limbed at about 2.5 inches in total length with a small, narrow head and reduced eyes. They vary in color from dark gray to a yellowish-brown and have external gills that are red in color.