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Onion Creek flood mitigation could cost up to $100 million

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Onion Creek homeowners are evaluating their options when it comes to fighting future floods. Potential solutions come with a price tag between $36 and $100 million and would be funded, at least in part, by taxpayers throughout the city with their drainage utility fees or a possible bond election.

According to the City of Austin, 139 homes in the Pinehurst and Wild Dunes neighborhoods fall in the 100-year flood plain along Onion Creek, but since 2013 those 100 year floods have come every two.

"I just bought my home and when it rains we're freaking out," says Bert Bell.

Bell's house is one that's seen flooding before and is likely to see it again. "There was 3 foot of water in our house," Bell explains.

Tuesday evening the city presented Bell and his neighbors with their options moving forward -- few of which will protect everybody. Those options include brush clearing, building a flood wall, a detention pond and buyouts. The latter being the most effective but also the most expensive.

"Probably upwards of a 100 million right now," estimates Pam Kearfott, a watershed protection supervising engineer for the City of Austin. Kearfott says homeowner opinion so far is split.

"We do like to factor the neighborhood's input into our solution, but it's not the only determining factor," Kearfott says.

Other factors include cost, environmental impact and timeline. Some of the proposed projects would take 7-10 years to complete.

"Ten years to get it done. Who knows? I mean, we could flood twice again before anything is done about it," Bell says. For he and his neighbors -- many of whom have lived in their homes for decades -- the options cost too much and take too long to give them peace of mind. Bell would like to see something done on a smaller scale that wouldn't completely eliminate but would still help combat flood risk.

"Just to tear down? Voluntary buyouts? Put up a wall? That concerns me that it may decrease home values," Bell says.

On June 7, a final report on these potential projects will head to the city's environmental commission subcommittee. This summer city council will have final say in what to do and how to fund a fix.


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