Burnet County approves LCRA flood grant plan

Connie Swinney/The Highlander

 

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Burnet Bulletin

Burnet County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday, Nov. 27, on a plan to share with affected municipalities portions of a $100,000 donation from the Lower Colorado River Authority for cleanup from the October flood.

The plan approved by commissioners honors LCRA's request that at least 70 percent of the money be used for waterway cleanup. The remaining 30 percent will be used to pay for household hazardous waste removal ($20,000), refrigerant removal ($3,000) and monitoring ($7,000) at the county's Phillips Ranch road debris site, the latter a requirement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“This $100,000 woefully underfunds what is necessary to put our lakes in order, but we have tried to allocate these funds in a fair and reasonable fashion so the municipalities which were affected are represented as well as our unincorporated areas,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery, a member of the committee which determined how the funds should be disbursed.

Development Services Director Herb Darling, also a member of the committee, said they based apportionment on the number of homes that sustained flood damage in each jurisdiction. Municipalities may use their allocation for any approved debris removal within their borders.

A review of the flood zone shows some 350 to 375 homes were damaged in some way by the flood, Darling said.

Granite Shoals will receive $20,000, while Marble Falls will receive $15,000. The cities of Meadowlakes, Cottonwood Shores and Highland Haven each will receive $5,000. The remaining $20,000 is set aside for unincorporated areas, to pay for rolloff dumpsters to be placed with property owner associations and homeowner groups who submit an application to the county.

The dumpsters cannot be provided for individual use and no county resources may be used to fund repair or improvements, including labor, on private property.

“Several meetings of the committee were held and we tried our best to come up with an equal formula without leaving anyone out,” Darling said.

POAs and homeowners groups in unincorporated areas should contact Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther at 512-715-4112 or JLuther@burnetcountytexas.org; or Dockery at 512-715-2911 or Jdockery@burnetcountytexas.org to request dumpsters for debris. The dumpsters cannot be used for mud, treated lumber, household hazardous waste or items containing refrigerants.

The application process starts Jan. 7 and will continue until all funding is expended. Cleanup is expected to start Jan. 14 and end Feb. 28. Applications and reports must be sent to County Services Director Karen Hardin at Khardin@burnetcountytexas.org.

Darling told commissioners the committee is still grading bids received for debris site monitoring, but the county did not receive any HHW bids before the bid deadline. There is an estimated 25 cubic yards of HHW at the Phillips Ranch Road debris site and the cost of removal is expected to be about $800 per cubic yard.

He said the county will be reaching out to at least one company to determine if they are interested in performing the work and may file a State of Texas Assistance Request (STAR) to allow the county to go outside the normal bidding process to identify a vendor to provide services.

Commissioners did approve a single vendor to perform refrigerant removal at a maximum cost of $3,000, which includes a $200 mobilization fee and $12 cost per unit. It is estimated that there could be 100 to 200 units at the debris site containing refrigerant, Darling said.

The county also received several bids to remove the estimated 15,500 cubic yards of flood debris at the Phillips Ranch Road site, but those bids are still being evaluated. Because of the high anticipated cost of removal ($450,000), no bids are expected to be awarded until a presidential disaster declaration is announced.

“The question is whether we will get a presidential disaster declaration, which will allow us to receive money to help with debris removal,” Darling said last week. “However, I always like to have a Plan B in place. All indications are that the state of Texas would 'own' the debris if a disaster declaration is not made.”

Lack of a federal disaster declaration would also be disastrous to areas residents, who cannot obtain tax relief without passage of such a declaration. Beginning with tax year 2018 and continuing through 2025, the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, passed in late December 2017, suspends itemized deductions for personal casualty and theft losses.

There remains a deduction for “qualified disaster-related personal casualty losses,” which must occur in   a presidentially declared disaster area.

Lake lowering

The LCRA plans to lower the level of Lake Marble Falls by seven feet and Lake LBJ by four feet, beginning Dec. 30. The lakes will stay at their lower level for eight weeks to allow for cleanup of debris, dredging and repair of docks and retaining walls damaged in the Oct. 16 flood.

Lake Marble Falls will be lowered from its normal operating level of 736 to 737 feet mean sea level to an elevation of 729 to 730 feet msl. Lake LBJ will be lowered from its normal operating level of 824 to 825 feet msl to an elevation of 820 to 821 feet msl. On Feb. 19, floodgates will be opened again, allowing the lakes to refill. That process will be completed Feb. 23.

All residents and property owners wishing to perform dredging or remove debris from the lake during the drawdown must register their projects with LCRA. Work can be performed under LCRA's lakewide permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as long as it meets permit requirements, but a permit notice must be posted at the worksite.

For more information on the drawdown, see lcra.org/lakelowerings.

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