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Watershed staff presents new plan for Barton Spring Pool repairs

Thursday, March 31, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

Representatives from the Watershed Protection Department expressed concern last week that further delays on much-needed repairs to the bypass tunnel at Barton Springs Pool could mean a lengthier closure of the pool.


In an update to the Parks and Recreation Board, Johnnie Price of the Watershed Protection Department presented a new plan for the project, a tentative schedule, and the next steps the department will be taking.


The process of repairing the pool began three years ago, when it was discovered that there were holes forming in the bottom of the culvert, Price said. A culvert is a closed conduit used to channel water.


Last summer, public concerns about costs, drilling into fault lines, and changes to the aesthetics of the pool caused delays to the project. The new design does not drill into fault lines but rather utilizes rock anchors to secure the new structure. Price also cited a new estimated cost of $2.2 million for the project, $1 million less than the original plan.


The Watershed Department is now in the design phase of the project and hopes to begin construction some time this year.


Robin Cravey, president of Friends of Barton Springs Pool, told the board his group supports the new plan.


“All of our serious concerns with this plan have been answered as we’ve gone along … The things that we thought were real dangers have all been addressed. This is a plan that should go forward,” said Cravey. “Now our concerns are the schedule and the phasing. With the schedule, Johnnie has just told you how tight it is to get this started this year. We think it is very important to get it started this year, and so we are going to be encouraging the staff to be moving with all deliberate speed that they can on this project.”


Because of delays and continued wear on the current structure, project managers recognize a need to move the project along as quickly as possible. “I’m concerned with the integrity right now, and that’s why I’m here. We’ve had some events that have put some stress on the culvert, mainly the flooding in September,” said Price


Additionally, Price explained that while there are currently several possible construction and closure schedules, options would become more limited the longer the pre-construction process takes.


“At the end of this approval, when we go through the permitting process, where are we at in time?” Price asked. “If that happened in July, which is probably not very feasible right now, then we’d have a lot more options about how long we could construct improvements. If this happens in October, then before the start of next swim season is a much more condensed schedule.”


A more condensed schedule of construction would translate to more hours of construction work per day and fewer hours of swimming for the public, perhaps none at all, a notion that did not raise a fight at this particular board meeting.


“We know if we get started late, it might be the best thing to close the pool completely for a few months in the dead of winter,” said Cravey.

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