AUSTIN (KXAN) — Clearing out the Waller Creek tunnel is a matter of public safety, it’s important for keeping debris out during times of flooding.
But after the project began recently, dozens of dead fish appeared along the creek this week.
Some advocates are now asking, what about the safety of creek wildlife?
“It’s sad to just see them die a miserable death like that,” said David Schmidt, who took pictures of the dead fish and sent them to KXAN.
The city of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department manages the cleaning of the Waller Creek Tunnel.
“It was expected there could be some loss of life through the project, and we’re doing everything we can to minimize that impact,” said John Beachy, a project manager.
The city tells KXAN after hearing about the impacted wildlife, it sent an inspector to the site.
The inspector found approximately 60 dead fish. The city also tested the water and learned that oxygen levels were low because the project interrupts the natural flow of water.
During the course of the project, the city will aerate the water, effectively putting oxygen back into the creek. Texas Parks and Wildlife tells us that’s more of a best practice, something that can be done in lieu of relocating the wildlife.
Beachy says because of that, the city and state agreed it wouldn’t be necessary to relocate the fish.
However, he says contractors removed the oxygen-providing equipment Monday because of the threat of flooding the machine overnight.
“It’s a new facility, new and unique to this location,” said Beachy. “We’re learning every time we try to do something new, and we’ll look to apply those lessons learned, or minimize the impact of fish in the future.”
The tunnel is cleaned out every couple of years. This is the second time it has been cleaned out since being built.
The city says it decided to take on the project during the Summer to avoid any possible rain events.