Mike McChesney has lived in the Brentwood neighborhood in Central Austin for 16 years and never had a flooding problem. So he was surprised recently to get a notice from the city saying his home on Brentwood Avenue is now in the 100-year floodplain.
“I thought about the economic impact,” he said. “It will cost me more to live here. I will have to get flood insurance.”
McChesney is not alone. Three weeks ago, the city mailed out 11,000 letters to residents and businesses affected by the new floodplain maps. The boundaries didn’t change for everybody. But about 2,400 properties and 800 buildings have been added to the floodplain. Another 2,200 properties and 400 buildings were removed from it.
Some of the impacted areas include:
- The Tannehill watershed in east Austin, which significantly expanded between Berkman Drive and Cameron Road and between Interstate 35 and Koenig Lane.
- The downtown area along Shoal Creek, where the floodplain expanded between West Avenue and Ninth Street.
- The Bull Creek watershed, where the floodplain generally decreased except in the vicinity of FM 2222 and Loop 360 at Spicewood Springs Road.
“The risk for people hasn’t changed,” said Kevin Shunk, the city’s floodplain manager. “They have always known they’re either in the floodplain or near it, but what we have now is a map that shows it.”
He said the changes to the maps came about as the city’s $3.1 million, three-year study provided new and more reliable data. The previous data on Bull Creek, he noted, was 20 years old. Improved technology and more accurate topography information led to better predictions of which areas might flood.
“We also did physical surveys of creeks,” Shunk said. “Our computer models are better. We have this brand new information now, and we’re able to provide an interactive map online where a homeowner can find out if they’re in the floodplain or not.”
The study focused on eight watersheds: Boggy Creek, Bull and West Bull Creek, Carson Creek, Cottonmouth Creek, Dry Creek East, Fort Branch, Shoal Creek and Tannehill Branch. There are 100 watersheds citywide.
Shunk said the new floodplain maps will be submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which chipped in $1.1 million for the study. The floodplain changes will take effect in mid-2015, at which time the information can be used for flood insurances purposes.
TO FIND OUT MORE:
Residents are invited to attend upcoming meetings to learn more about the changes in the flood maps. The meetings will be held at:
- 1 p.m. Friday at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road.
- 6:30 p.m. Monday at Carver Branch Library, 1161 Angelina St.
- 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at at Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Drive
To see how a specific property might be affected, visit www.austintexas.gov/floodplainchanges, click on the map image to the left that says “Floodplain Changes: Is Your Home at Risk?” and enter the address in the search box.
Affected residents should talk to their lender and insurance agent about flood insurance, as flood damage is not covered by homeowners insurance. They should also have an evacuation plan in case the area floods; for information visit www.dhs.gov and type in disaster kit in the search box.