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Price Tag To Fix Shoal Creek Landslide Balloons

Gabriel C. Pérez
A landslide in May 2018 caused damage to property above Shoal Creek.

After more than a year of negotiations with property owners over how to repair a landslide along Shoal Creek, the City of Austin is moving ahead with the project – but it could cost millions more than initially thought.

In May 2018, a landslide sent earth, trees and debris into Shoal Creek, near Lamar and 24th Street. It destroyed 300 feet of the Hike and Bike trail, broke a wastewater pipe, dammed up the creek and sheared off sections of peoples’ lawns at the top the hill.

Since then, each time it rains, the city has scrambled to protect the cliff and uphill properties with sandbags. Successive rains this spring have caused further erosion, according to a memo released Tuesday from the City Watershed Protection Department. That increases flood risk on Lamar Boulevard and is causing parts of Pease Park to erode into the creek.

The legal negotiations had stalled a long-term fix. Residents wanted the slope stabilized a way that gave them some of their backyards back, according to Mike Kelly, a managing engineer at the Watershed Protection Department.

“The city said, ‘Well, we can look at that, but the city won’t be able to pay for that portion of it,'" Kelly told the city’s Environmental Commission last week. "We can only really pay to stabilize that which really threatens public property and infrastructure."

On Tuesday, Kelly said, “We reached an agreement.”

The memo from the Watershed Protection Department puts the price tag for that agreement at $20 million – significantly more than the $8 million to $16 million the city estimated last April. The memo says the higher price estimate is due to “additional [slope] failure that has occurred since March” and because of uncertainty about the final price.

The Watershed Protection Department will ask City Council to allocate the funds at its meeting June 20.

This price tag also does not include money to reopen the nearby section of the Hike and Bike Trail, which has been closed for over a year because of the landslide.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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