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Price tag to fix Shoal Creek landslide balloons

Thursday, June 13, 2019 by Mose Buchele, KUT

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 Boulevard 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 scrambles 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 risk of flooding on Lamar Boulevard and is causing sections of Pease Park to erode into the creek.

The legal negotiations had stalled a long-term fix. Residents wanted the slope stabilized in a manner that restored some of their backyards, 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 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 Watershed Protection 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 uncertainty about the final price.

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

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

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT.

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