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How Replanting Trees Could Dampen the Impact of Future Blanco River Floods

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT
A view of the damage along the Blanco River in Wimberley on May 25, 2015.

A local non-profit is offering to replant trees lost along the Blanco River during the Memorial Day floods, but the trees are more than just replacements. They also might help mitigate future flooding.

Marcus Smith’s explanation of how trees temper flooding starts like a bad math problem:

“If a 30-foot tree holds a hundred gallons of water and keeps it from hitting the ground...”

Smith owns Just Trees, a tree care service here in Austin. He says you’d be surprised at how much water foliage can hold – 10,000 trees can stop 10 million gallons of water from joining floodwaters on the ground. And then there’s what goes on beneath the surface. Matt Mears with Treefolks says trees make the ground around them act more like a sponge.

“[They] increase infiltration of water into the soil, so they can actually slow down flooding,” Mears says.

Mears and others with the local non-profit Treefolks will be doing the replanting free of charge. He says they want to get the riverside forest back to where it was before the storm, ensuring that a whole ecosystem is back in action. The planting will include Cypress, Sycamore, Cedar Elm, Green Ash, and Roughleaf Dogwood trees, as well as a a mix of native grasses, he says.

Folks who own property in Hays County along the Blanco River can fill out an application to get their trees replaced at Tree Folks’ website.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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