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Council to implement Lake Austin Task Force’s recommendations

Thursday, August 29, 2013 by Michael Kanin

Fresh off a presentation from the Lake Austin Task Force, Council members are set Thursday to consider a directive to City Manager Marc Ott that would be the first step in implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations. While some Council members expressed concerns at Tuesday’s work session over the ideas, they appeared ready to move forward.


Council Member Bill Spelman worried that the item could bring initiation of code amendments without Council review. He pointed specifically to regulations for marine toilets, holding tanks, and marinas.


“I’m sold on the idea that there is something we ought to do about this, but I am concerned about developing and implementing a process when we don’t know what the process is going to look like, what it is going to cost, how many FTEs are going to be involved, how effective it is going to be, and so on,” Spelman said. “I would be much more comfortable with directing the Manager to develop the process and then come back to us with those pieces of information.”


Mayor Lee Leffingwell agreed. “I had concerns about this item too,” he said. “I may not be in favor of all the particular amendments that we’ve directed initiation of, but if we’re just going to take a look at them  and get more input and compare the costs of them, then I can support that effort.”


Council Members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo brought forward the resolution. In it, they seek to “process code amendments relating to shoreline and dock development and to the registration and identification of docks,” as well as prepare a wake zone ordinance, and look at possibilities for broader management of Lake Austin.


Morrison and Tovo were receptive to the concerns of her colleagues. Morrison noted that the removal of two instructions for Ott to “implement” programs would bring everything back to Council.


Council members eventually appeared to agree on a version of the document that would instruct Ott to develop some of the Task Force’s recommendations, but return to Council for final approval before any kind of implementation.


All of those items were part of a set of consensus recommendations put forth by the recently concluded Lake Austin Task Force. Chair Linda Guerrero and Vice Chair Carol Lee delivered the group’s findings to Council members last week.


Of all the recommendations, Morrison appeared most drawn to the idea of what would be a new Lake Austin Management division. She told her colleagues last week that, “The Lake Management division is really the key to all of this because it’s only there that we’re going to be able to get a funding plan, an implementation plan, and have some oversight, tracking, and monitoring because there is a lot of stuff here – absolutely a lot of stuff.”


Tuesday, Spelman noted that if Morrison was trying to create such a division with her resolution that he would like to see a fiscal note, and expected outcomes from the operation. Morrison replied that her call was more general.


“We were very careful to word this resolution in a more general way that said something like the Lake Management Division, but the point being to have some coordinated non-siloed efforts managing our lakes,” she said. “Hopefully it will be a way to bring together folks who are already doing work.”


Council Member Mike Martinez expressed specific concern over the wake zone proposal, a move that would restrict boat wakes – and, therefore speed – 50 feet from shore. “I would definitely want our APD Lake Patrol to weigh in on this because to me what this does is it squeezes everything toward the middle of the water, causes more congestion where people are trying to wakeboard and ski and recreate,” he offered. “An absolute no wake zone is literally a snails pace and so maybe its 10 miles-an-hour and below 50 feet from the shore is a better policy.”


Council members are set to vote on the proposal today.

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