Austin, Texas Needs a DAM SOLUTION to its Chronic Flooding Problem Onion Creek Flooding is as Predictable as the Sun Coming Up; It's Long Past Time to Deal With it

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Feb 10, 2018 No Comments ›› admin

By Ben Barrack

It’s Floodin’ down in Texas; All of the telephone lines are down – Stevie Ray Vaughn

Proposed Dam and Reservoir Sites Along Onion Creek in South Austin, TX

If there is a place in Texas that suffers from predictably frequent flooding, it’s along Onion Creek south of Austin. However, the state of Texas has done little about it. The city of Austin’s solution has been to secure federal grants to buy the homes of people affected. As a result, flooding is still guaranteed and opportunities like flood prevention, additional water sources and even recreation continue to be lost.

Moreover, the city has purchased land with the money of citizens who don’t even reside in the state. In fact, the citizens of Austin could benefit if McKinney Falls State Park – which is run by Texas Parks and Wildlife and sits on Onion Creek – were turned into a lake.

Forbes named Austin the fastest growing city in 2016. Real estate values in Central Texas have been skyrocketing as Californians and people from other non-business friendly states flock to the area. Meanwhile, the city of Austin has been making less real estate available.

See if you think this video from AustinTexas.GOV doesn’t smack of propaganda:

Very Recent History Repeats

Between October of 2013 and October of 2015, there were three major floods along Onion Creek and several other significant flooding events. As for the three worst, Halloween in 2013 was one. Here is a video from the aforementioned AustinTexas.GOV:

Texas Parks and Wildlife posted a video of McKinney Falls Park (site of proposed Reservoir #2 in diagram) during the flood:

The next major flood occurred on Memorial Day weekend of 2015. This next video was shot at Onion Creek and 183. Note just after the 7:00 mark, the woman filming takes you to Richard Moya Park. This park sits on Onion Creek east of 183 and due south of the airport. A dam at McKinney Falls Park could prevent this park from flooding (see location in diagram above):

Here is a Google Maps image of the two locations featured in the video above (Onion Creek and 183 / Onion Creek and Richard Moya Park):

[CLICK IMAGE FOR VIDEO OF 2015 FLOOD]

Then again, on Halloween of that same year, the worst of these three events wrought untold destruction:

Just west of Interstate 35, there is a makeshift dam to help prevent I35 from becoming impassable during flood conditions (see diagram above). On October 30, 2015 it failed. In the photo below, you can see the water nearly reach the overpass. In normal conditions, the highway is several stories above water.

Here is video of McKinney Falls Park (site of proposed Reservoir #2 in diagram) during the Halloween flood of 2015:

Blueprint in Pennsylvania?

Roaring Creek

As Onion Creek eventually flows into the Colorado River east of Austin, Roaring Creek flows to the Susquehanna River in eastern Pennsylvania. In the early 1900’s, the Roaring Creek Water Company dammed up three points of the creek and created three reservoirs – Bear Gap, McWilliams and Kline’s.

Reservoirs along Roaring Creek in eastern PA

The purpose of the reservoirs was to create additional water supply. They have also been a source of recreation.

Granted, there are significant differences in population and topography between this region and central Texas. However, the purpose and benefits of multiple reservoirs along a creek would be the same.

Here are a couple of videos that show the size and design of the reservoirs:

In 1972, Hurricane Agnes hit the region hard and produced “extremely high flows” on Roaring Creek. The dams were not built to sustain that amount of water and at least two had to be repaired. That said, damage could have been worse.

Proposal For Onion Creek

**REFER TO DIAGRAM AT BEGINNING OF THIS POST**

There exist several factors when considering dam placement and construction. Among them are topography and population, both upstream and downstream. If you look at the diagram at the beginning of this post, the proposed site of Reservoir #1 is at the Travis County / Hays County line. As the creek flows west to east, a dam at that location would create a reservoir southwest of the dam.

View of Onion Creek in Austin, TX via Google Maps

Moving farther northeast and downstream, there is an already existing dam, primarily meant to protect I35 from flooding. There is certainly room to reinforce and increase the size of this dam. To the north sits an apartment complex but somewhere between 50-100 ft. above the creek; topography works here. To the south sits more than 1000 square yards of undeveloped land.

Perhaps no better topography exists for a dam along Onion Creek than where it would be most controversial. In particular, a dam would turn McKinney Falls State Park into a lake. As a result, the park would no longer exist as it currently does. However, this would be a perfect spot for recreation. Just before Onion Creek runs under the McKinney Falls Parkway bridge, both sides of the creak bed extend several stories into the sky.

The last proposed site for a dam would be due east of the Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Just to the west of and adjacent to Highway 130 exists a body of water surrounded by undeveloped land. Again, population and homes should be far enough away and would not be affected as a result.

Proposed Dam and Reservoir Sites Along Onion Creek in South Austin, TX

Dams Work

As a disclaimer, I am not an engineer. I just know that dams work. They protect against flooding; they provide additional water supplies in times of drought and they can provide recreation. In the case of Austin, homeowners would not have to sell their property to the city.

Austin residents are very familiar with floods and droughts. Dams along Onion Creek would minimize the adverse effects of both.

On a relevant topic, Austin’s own Stevie Ray Vaughn was all too familiar and frustrated with Texas floods:

The water keeps on Rollin’; It’s about to drive poor Stevie Ray insane

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