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County compromise puts surf park opening in the pipeline

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

As impossible as it sounds, surf’s up in Central Texas.

On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court and the owners of NLand Surf Park formally struck a bargain to allow the massive wave pool east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to open this Friday.

“Austin is now one of the world’s best surfing destinations and will attract visitors from around the planet,” NLand representative Todd Reed told the court after it voted to approve an injunction allowing the venture to sally forth. “We are honored to be part of the Travis County community and especially proud to provide quality jobs and opportunities for growth to the local population in Del Valle.”

The injunction settles, temporarily at least, dueling lawsuits between the county and the corporation behind NLand, Austin Park LLC. Judge Karin Crump signed off on the agreement on Tuesday afternoon.

The crux of the disagreement was whether the park’s 11-million-gallon lagoon fit the statutory definition of a pool under state law. The county, along with the Texas Department of State Health Services, maintained that it does fit that definition and should therefore be regulated as such, while NLand officials disagreed.

The new injunction lays out a strict water quality testing regimen that the park will have to execute. NLand staff will have to regularly test chlorine and pH levels as well as monitor for E. coli and other “organic, inorganic, microbial, and other contaminants.” If any of the results from those tests exceeds a specified threshold, park officials will have to shut down the lagoon until subsequent tests show that it’s safe to go back in the water.

The injunction also allows the county to randomly test, at its own expense, the lagoon and its adjacent reservoir. If at any time officials find the park in violation of the terms of the injunction, they can take steps to shut the lagoon down until conditions are proved to be suitable.

Despite NLand’s announced plans to open for business this Friday, the park is not quite in safe harbor yet. Tuesday’s injunction comes with an expiration date set for May 1, 2017. In the meantime, according to Commissioner Margaret Gómez, whose Precinct 4 is home to the park, a higher power could settle the dispute permanently.

“Our expectation is that the Legislature knows about it and will address it in the next session,” Gómez told the Austin Monitor. “We just want people to be OK and to be safe.”

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This story has been corrected. Margaret Gómez is the Precinct 4 county commissioner, not the Precinct 1 county commissioner.

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