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City devising permanent solution to erosion threat in Guerrero Park

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 by Sean Saldaña

Southeast Austin’s Roy G. Guerrero Park is home to a disc-golf course and baseball fields and is a popular destination for birding. But according to the city, a growing threat poses a risk to the popular park: erosion.

The 360-acre park is home to two separate creeks: Country Club West and Country Club East. The two creeks also serve as drainage channels that divert flood water into the Colorado River.

Country Club West, which was a man-made project started in the 1970s, was never fully completed. As a result, water hasn’t been able to flow into the Colorado River in a controlled manner and the channel has been severely eroded by sand, wind and water.

In recent years, the long-term effects of this erosion have come to a head. In 2015, heavy flooding washed out a pedestrian bridge that served as a shortcut through the park. The bridge has yet to be repaired.

Because the original man-made channel wasn’t completed, the erosion has continued to make the area harder to manage. From May 2015 to December 2017, erosion ate away more than 1,500 feet of the Country Club West drainage channel.

According to Janna Renfro, an engineer with the Watershed Protection Department, “The problem is that this project was never properly finished and taken to the river in a stable manner.”

A series of short-term fixes by the city has not been sufficient. At last week’s Environmental Commission meeting, Renfro said that over the past few years, the city has completed a few “temporary repairs to really try to hold the line because every time it rains and there’s more erosion, this project becomes more complicated and more expensive.”

Currently, the city is in the early stages of creating a more permanent solution. Three concrete drop structures would help control the energy of the water as it flows toward the Colorado River. Renfro explained, “Although we typically really like to avoid concrete in our creeks, these structures are necessary in order to step the water down to the river.”

The project would also include a pedestrian bridge over one of the concrete structures that would be better protected from heavy flooding.

An updated construction cost estimate shows that in total, the project will cost anywhere from $22 million to $28 million. The bidding for the contract and initial construction is set to start in 2022 and the projected end date is 2024. The funding will come from a combination of drainage utility funds, general funds, 2018 bond funds, and a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant that was awarded in 2018.

Photo by Marcus Calderon, made available through a Creative Commons license.

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