Private landowners’ concerns slow Austin’s plans for Shoal Creek landslide work


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A bluff along Shoal Creek gave way more than a year ago during a landslide, and the City of Austin is still not able to set a timeline on the work to secure the hillside and reopen the hike and bike trail.

Mike Kelly, the city’s managing engineer, told KXAN that the city is making progress on negotiating with a contractor and working on engineering plans to deal with the landslide area, which extends from Shoal Creek Boulevard to 24th Street.

A 400-foot-long by 100-foot-tall section of a bluff collapsed and fell into Shoal Creek on May 4, 2018. It blocked the creek, elevated the flooding risk, broke a wastewater line and took out hiking and biking trails.

However, Kelly said working with the private property owners at the top of the bluff is presenting some hurdles.

The affected area straddles public property in Pease Park and private land. The city needs to get permission to go onto those private properties so that it can put in structures to better hold the land in place.

The property owners, though, have some concerns about where the city would like to nail down anchors into their yards. They’re worried how those soil nails might reduce their property values, Kelly said.

The city is now taking a look at those concerns and possibly readjusting its plans, but Kelly said this part of the negotiations with the landowners can only go on so long given that even more land collapsed in May this year.

“We all have to make the determination about how much time is allowable because at some point when it starts to rain again, the likelihood that the failure continues is high,” Kelly said. “So continuing negotiations will be moot at some point if we have another failure.”

The property owners will still have to agree to whatever the city brings back to them, so it’s still unclear when this project will proceed.

“We appreciate the public’s patience with this,” Kelly said. “There are a lot of people affected by this. It’s not just staff, not just property owners. It is everybody who uses that park and got used to it and is getting antsy for the hike and bike trail, and so we appreciate everyone’s understanding and staying away from the hazard zone.”

The Austin City Council approved about $20 million to do all the work that’s needed.

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