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Flood debris removal project approved

A comprehensive project that aims to remove over 61,000 square yards of debris left over from the devastating Memorial Day 2015 flood received approval by Hays County Commissioners last week.

While there is no cost estimate for the project at this time, the program is on a bid per site model that pays out per percentage of completion.

However, there is a $1.7 million grant with a 10 percent match by the county currently in place

This project originally started with the Private Property Debris Removal (PPDR) program in July 2015, but Hays County Planner Caitlyn Hairell said “we knew we had more work to do.”

The Hays County Development Services Department then partnered with the National Resources Conservation Services to begin a new debris removal program, the Emergency Watershed Protection program, which started Dec. 1, 2016.

Initial estimates of 61,000 square yards of flood debris remained after the initial PPDR program. Actual amount removed is subject to change and the full amount will not be known until project completion.

There are 103 sites originally approved for debris removal. Sixteen of these sites have been completed and six more are currently underway.

There are two crews working in conjunction with one another. One consists of a six-man crew referred to as the “hand crew,” whose job it is to pick up the debris that the larger machine is unable to reach.

A second crew, or “operating crew,” consists of eight people in charge of operating the heavy machinery. 

Understanding the complexity of the project, Hays County Commissioner Will Conley discussed the intricacies associated with the new program.

“Each different service has a different management, setup and design,” said Conley. “We wanted to come to court to notify the public about how this is going, what the intentions are and how we’re going about operations and what our plans are in conclusion.”

As of Jan. 24, 16 percent of sites have been completed. These sites have accounted for over 23,000 cubic yards of debris, which is 39% of the total estimated debris.

As far as vegetation on these sites, only storm damaged trees and brush directly uprooted by the flood will be removed. Existing healthy trees will remain in place at all costs, unless they directly interfere with further access to work areas.

When the healthy or damaged vegetation must be removed, the tree or shrub is to be cut off at ground level, leaving its root system completely intact. Then, each site will be prepped and reseeded with species native to Hays county.

In court, Hays County judge Bert Cobb reiterated the projects importance, telling a story highlighting the potential dangers the debris could cause to the county.

“I flew over the affected area with the mayor of Austin and it was obvious to all of us the potential more devastating things that could happen if these debris piles were to flood again,” said Cobb. “They could take out houses, bridges and people.”

Cobb explained the need of the project. 

“We know we will have another flood, it’s part of living in Texas,” said Cobb. “But we don’t want to cause more damage because of our lack of action.”

The expected date of completion is May 15 and is subject to change.

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