Pease Park Threatened by Watershed Protection Department's Shoal Creek Tunnel and Intake Facility

AUSTIN – Pease Park Conservancy (PPC) has formally notified the Watershed Protection Department (WPD) that it will oppose any plans for construction of a Shoal Creek flood control tunnel with an intake facility in the park. (See attached a copy of a letter dated August 3, 2016 to WPD Director Joe Pantalion from PPC Chairman Richard Craig)

The Watershed Protection Department is set to conduct a feasibility study based on a 1991 Army Corps of Engineers report that recommended building a flood control tunnel on Shoal Creek with an intake facility located on the east side of the park at Lamar Boulevard and MLK Jr. Boulevard. WPD regards such a tunnel as the most cost-effective means of controlling flooding on the creek and thus seems their preferred solution. It would be similar in size and scope to the Waller Creek Tunnel and proceed under the park and portions of Old Enfield and Clarksville neighborhoods via Pressler Street to an outlet on Lady Bird Lake. (See attached WPD Summary of Flood Reduction Studies in Shoal Creek Watershed published in August 2014).

Such an intake facility in Pease Park would take precious park acreage in the central city out of recreational use. Parkland is at a premium in Austin’s urban core and the community can ill afford to lose any of it. Much of Waterloo Park has already been sacrificed to the Waller Creek Tunnel. This cannot be repeated at Pease. The Conservancy feels that most Austin residents will be opposed to such a land grab in this historic and much beloved green space. Governor & Mrs. Pease gave this property to the city in 1875 with the stipulation in the deed that it be for used as a park. Taking portions of the park for other divergent uses could violate the terms of that deed and be certain to subject the City to costly litigation.

The City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budget for 2016-2017 contains $1 million in funding for this feasibility study (Item 5754.076, Page 551). These funds will be available beginning October 1st. Such scarce taxpayer funds should not be expended on studying a flood control solution that will be dead on arrival and never built. This is not a responsible use of public funds.

Pease Park Conservancy strongly urges that the Austin City Council redirect this funding to study all alternatives for alleviating flooding problems on Shoal Creek in concert with work being undertaken in partnership with the Shoal Creek Conservancy and The Meadows Center for Water & the Environment. The City Council should give clear direction to the Watershed Protection Department staff to only consider solutions that do no alienate any dedicated parkland.