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Does the city need increased scrutiny of drainage issues?

Monday, July 29, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

Following a case at the Zoning and Platting Commission that was pulled from the consent agenda due to a neighbor’s concerns about unwanted drainage, Commissioner David King suggested to the commissioners that they hear from the city about the review process associated with drainage engineering studies. King is already working with staff to understand how thoroughly the city reviews the drainage studies submitted by third-party engineers. “I don’t think there’s enough diligence on the city’s part to verify the engineering analysis,” he told the Austin Monitor. He said he often hears about a new development increasing the drainage to a neighboring property even though sealed engineering documents found no adverse impacts. “How are they going to hold the engineers accountable?” he wondered. When the Monitor asked that question of city staff, drainage reviewer David Marquez from the Development Services Department said, “We require the engineers to certify and to seal their work.” He explained that city drainage engineers verify the calculations on their computers and occasionally go into the field to look at the site if there are complications such as erosion or odd pipe locations. Verifying the accuracy of the information, however, should be on the applicant’s engineer. The city just has to trust the engineers, said Marquez. King said he understands that it is not easy to determine future drainage patterns following development because the studies do not factor in predicting future rain patterns. City staff members said that they encourage drainage review engineers to factor in the Atlas 14 rainfall study, but it is not yet a requirement. King pointed out that other major metropolitan areas like Chicago have programs that allow for engineers to be put on probation if their sealed documents prove to provide incorrect information. The discussion is still ongoing and the Land Development Code rewrite will likely include everything from drainage requirements to evaluation of the review process.

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