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Marble Falls woman vows showdown over creek-clearing project

Video: Watch it on
the 4-1-10 newcast
on ThePicayuneTV.com

POSTED 4-1-2010

MARBLE FALLS — Connie Pell says she’ll do just about anything to stop the bulldozers from inching closer to a scenic creek behind her home as part of a project to prevent future flooding.

She’s afraid the work will destroy habitats and valuable trees.


IN PHOTO: Marble Falls retiree Connie Pell says she’s prepared to stand her ground against a clearing project that’s inching closer to a creek behind her property. The creek runs from the RR 1431 and U.S. 281 intersection north toward Pell’s home near the intersection of Avenue G and 12th Street. The flood-mitigation project includes clearing trees, overgrown brush, boulders and debris that has settled in a runoff area after the devastating flood of June 2007. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

"I told him if they come down this way, I’ll stand in front of the bulldozer if I have to," she said about a Wednesday conversation she had with a project worker. "You can hear them (the work) in the background. Our neighborhood had to stop them because they were coming over into our area."

Pell, a retiree, lives in the 1100 block of Avenue G.

The creek-clearing work is part of a city project to prevent a repeat of the massive flooding that inundated the area in June 2007, when a "rain bomb" dumped 19 inches on Marble Falls, causing evacuations and closing down businesses.

Vegetation and debris built up in area creeks, which caused the water flow to back up, flooding several streets, homes, bridges and businesses, emergency officials reported at the time.

Since that time, the city has started several projects to prevent future flooding.

During the past few days, the project in Pell’s neighborhood has progressed along a portion of a runoff creek from RR 1431 north toward Twelfth Street, just east of the U.S. 281 and 1431 intersection.

City Manager Ralph Hendricks said a project representative met with area residents as soon as city officials learned of neighbors’ concerns.

"It is one of the major drainage areas in our community," Hendricks said. "We do not need trees in the middle of our creeks. It becomes a dam in a flood. Debris backs up, the water gets backed up. Properties upstream will flood because water is unable to flow because of the backup."

The city received permission to clear brush on areas of the creek that run through private property, but worked along public right of way.

Pell said though she didn’t live in Marble Falls during the 2007 flood, she understands the concerns about flood prevention. However, she’s also concerned about the destruction of habitat near her home.

She started a personal video library of the work on the creek to document her concerns, Pell added.

"They have no catch float in it to catch any debris or water to keep the water clean. We do have fish that are down here," she said. "You’re talking about animals, deer … no deer have come over here lately, and this is the reason."

She’ll also monitor the work closely with the help of her neighbors, Pell said.

"You bulldoze houses. You don’t bulldoze creek beds," she said. "If it hadn’t been for everyone in our neighborhood and the kind people, we wouldn’t keep the beauty that we’ve got."

City officials said clearing debris has many benefits.

"It’s something nobody likes to see, but when we’re done, it will look clean and neat and help with the flow of water," said Public Works Assistant Director Duane Anderson, who is overseeing the project. "That area that’s closer to RR 1431, that was probably the worst area. The rest (of the work) is just getting some trees, most already dead, half dead or broke, out of the way."

"We are done bulldozing — other than what’s on the ground to get out of the way," he added.

Meanwhile, Pell said she has closely watched the clearing project’s progress.

"I’m concerned because they’ve taken out so many trees. Some of them were even old apple trees that were on the creek bed," she said. "They have completely destroyed this area."

Crews have cleared away trees, overgrown brush, boulders and debris that has collected along the creek just off 281 at 1431.

For those concerned about potential habitat loss, Hendricks said, "We encourage people to plant trees on their property."

David Short of Short Electronics, a business adjacent to the creek near the 281 and 1431 intersection, remembered how water from the creek rose onto his property and flooded his store in 2007.

"Three years ago, when we had that ‘water bomb’ as they called it, we had about 3 feet of water in our parking lot here. I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve never seen that much water," Short said. "I have mixed emotions about what’s going on back here."

"I enjoyed the creek how it was, but at the same time, it’s maybe going to help the water to flow quicker, maybe stop my building from flooding the next time we get 21 inches of rain," he added.

Hendricks, who was in charge of emergency management at the time, recalled the flooding near the 1431/281 intersection and the electronics shop.

"It was completely underwater in that area, and there were several cars that were trapped in that intersection, people who had to be rescued," Hendricks said.

Short believes growth and new construction may play a role in how much runoff washes into the creek. Businesses upstream of the creek behind his store include The Home Depot as well as a hair salon and a restaurant in a strip mall.

"The water used to soak into the ground, and now we have a lot of parking lots and a lot of buildings where our natural water would go into the ground," Short said. "Now it’s running off and filling up our little creek back here. I feel like as we grow, this creek’s even going to get more influx from the runoff …  so maybe this (the clearing work) will help."

Swinney is the anchor and producer for Highland Lakes Headlines at www.thepicayunetv.com.

connie@thepicayune.com