Council Passes Protections for Central, Eastside Creeks

Pollution, erosion, and development safeguards included

Sculpture Falls on the Barton Creek Greenbelt (Photo by LoneStarMike / CC BY-SA 3.0)

At City Council's June 9 meeting, Council Member Kathie Tovo sponsored a resolution to protect streams and creeks in Central and East Austin from mounting threats of pollution. Those areas are in the city's Desired Development Zone, a classification (by watershed) adopted back in 1999. According to the city's 2020 "State of Our Environment" report, the creeks in those DDZ watersheds are in consistently worse shape than those in the Drinking Water Protection Zone, mostly west of MoPac.

That's because the DDZ has (for more than two decades) had more permissive development regulations that allow impervious cover closer to the creeks and on the slopes above them. According to the report, roughly one-third of the creeks in Central and East Austin are unsafe for swimming during the summer.

Tovo's resolution, supported by environmental stakeholders including Environment Texas, the Save Barton Creek Assoc­ia­tion, and Clean Water Action, requires regular testing of creeks located downstream from industrial sites; communication among city staff when high levels of E. coli are detected; green stormwater methods; wetland protections and buffers along Lady Bird Lake to prevent shoreline erosion; and encouraging large projects to capture and use stormwater for irrigation.

Council's unanimous vote comes after an acidic waste spill earlier this year from the Samsung Austin Semiconductor facility in Northeast Austin into a tributary of Harris Branch Creek. Luke Metzger of Environment Texas said of the resolution, "From industrial discharges of toxic chemicals in our creeks to algae blooms killing dogs in our lakes, Austin continues to have serious water pollution problems. [This] resolution takes critical steps toward making all our waterways safe for people and animals alike."

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Kathie Tovo, Desired Development Zone, State of Our Environment

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