City of Austin revises 100-year floodplain maps


by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Posted on September 19, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 19 at 6:20 PM

AUSTIN -- While the Austin-area welcomes the possibility of rain, too much too fast could cause disaster.

Flooded creeks and watersheds can cause devastating damage. The City of Austin wants residents to know if they're at risk.

Jim Williams is one of 11,000 Austinites who received a special letter from the City. It says their homes and businesses may now be part of the floodplain.

“I've lived here a long time and it's never caused any problems before, “ Williams said 

The City says about 2,800 homes and 800 businesses have been added to the floodplain maps, many of them in the Brentwood neighborhood.

“The goal of the studies is to let the people know what their flood risk is at their property,” said Kevin Shunk with the Watershed Protection Department. He says in the past the department didn't have the money to study and update floodplain maps.

But in 2010, a $1.1 million grant from FEMA helped make that possible.

The city updated maps on eight area creeks: Boggy, Bull and West Bull, Carson, Cottonmouth, Fort Branch, Shoal, Tannehill Branch and Dry Creek East.

In all, it took $3 million to re-survey those watersheds and some places, including the Grover Tributary, that hadn't been looked at before.

“There are some areas that have moved into the floodplain,” Shunk said. “In addition there have been areas that moved out of the floodplain.”

Shunk says there's a section on the City's website where you can type in an address and see if that property is in the new floodplain.

“It could affect how they redevelop or do some development on their property,” he said.

It could also mean many more people may be forced to buy flood insurance.

And not everyone agrees with the map's changes.

“I'm astounded that they think we're in a flood plain,” said Jim Dobie, who lives near the Grover Tributary. He says he won't have a problem keeping his head and his home, above water.

“Me and FEMA are going to have to have a word I guess before I have to buy any flood insurance, because they're going to have to have proof, I mean there's just no way,” Dobie said.

About 2,200 homes and 400 buildings are no longer part of the floodplain. 

The city is holding three meetings so residents can see and discuss the new maps. The first one is Friday at 1 p.m. at One Texas Center, Room 325.