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Flooding Discussions Continue at Council Committee

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon
A file photo of Onion Creek cresting over William Cannon Drive in 2013.

With the promise of rain, Upper Onion Creek resident Ken Jacob says neighbors of his can be found with their eyes to the creek and the internet – where rain gauge levels are updated. So it’s essential to someone like Jacob, who serves on the city’s Flood Mitigation Task Force, that the city continue to discuss flood mitigation.

And it appears that’s happening. Members of the council’s Open Space, Environment and Sustainability Committee heard two briefings Thursday on flood mitigation in the city, plus a recent study on the Onion Creek area staff scheduled to finish this fall.

“This is not the first time Onion Creek has been studied,” Kevin Shrunk with the Watershed Protection Department told council members.

Studies of the creek were done in 1997, 2006 and 2013. People like Jacob are hoping that this latest study will dig into flood mitigation ideas for those residents like himself who are in a dangerous area, but not included in the city’s flood buyout program. (Last week, Council approved a measure directing the City Manager to locate $5 million for additional city buyouts). Shrunk said the initial deadline for the study may be pushed back since the department wants to fully consider recommendations in the Flood Mitigation Task Force’s report, published earlier this month.

But while staff said completing this most recent study is essential, members of the Open Space committee emphasized understanding how land use changes made as part of CodeNext could affect flooding. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo mentioned more frequent flooding in portions of Hyde Park.

“How the information we’re getting here today coupled with kind of the existing conditions on the grounds in some of our older, central city neighborhoods could be impacted by some of those land use changes,” said Tovo. “I hear that completely missing from a lot of those conversations.”

The information collected as part of this most recent Onion Creek study will inform revisions to FEMA’s own maps. Staff expects the federal agency to accept those revisions in fall 2017.

This story was produced as part of KUT's reporting partnership with the Austin Monitor.

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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