September President’s Report

Adventures in the Barton Springs Bypass Tunnel

Your intrepid reporter 
swims through the ooze 
to bring you the news

Bypass Adventure

With all the talk about the bypass tunnel, I wanted to take a look in there to see it for myself.  So I asked David Johns if I could go with him on his next expedition.  I promised not to get in the way or hurt myself.

David had to go in there to get some photos and videos to show the Parks Board, so we met at poolside on a Thursday and geared up to go down under.  David gave me the safety drill.  Something along the lines of, “There may be snakes, so yell if something bites you.”

As we entered the upstream end, the tunnel was empty, and the floor was dry.  No water flows in, from the dry creek.  Spider webs dotted the ceiling.

The tunnel is wide enough to drive my miata in, and tall enough that I could stand up.  As we moved away from the entrance, darkness closed in, and the only light was that one at the far end of the tunnel, and the shining of our headlamps.

As the tunnel sloped downhill, we walked into water up to our ankles, our knees, our waist.  The bottom was deep in muck, and our steps stirred it up, sending a dirty submerged cloud ahead of us.

We swam to the downstream end of the tunnel, careful not to touch the bottom.  Once we stopped and turned to walk upstream, we could see the bottom through clear water.  The slow-moving water carried the silt we kicked up away behind us.  Some big catfish and small fry swam past us. Continue reading “September President’s Report”

Update from the Advocacy Committee

The attention on the pool is bringing new members into FBSP. Several new members have joined into the FBSP Advocacy Committee. Committee members have been attending and speaking out in support of pool improvements and implementing the Master Plan projects. The Committee is also staying in contact with key staff of the City be abreast of emerging issues. Through all this participation, the Friends are building a stronger technical understanding of the difficult decisions the City faces. Among these tough issues are how to deal with the deterioration of the Barton Springs Pool bypass tunnel and how to maintain and restore the trees and canopy over the pool.

Since May, the Advocacy Committee has voiced the Friend’s mission at monthly meetings of the Parks & Recreation Board / Environmental Board Joint Committee that oversees the BSP Master Plan implementation. We requested the City work closely with our organization and others to end the neglect of the trees and to take positive actions. We announced a Tree Stewards Program the FBSP formulated with other volunteers from several organizations including TreeFolks and Austin Parks Foundation (APF). At the Joint Committee meetings and in meetings with our elected officials and City staff, we continue to press for implementation of all the Master Plan projects. All these efforts are slowly paying off. For example, through the combination of volunteer effort and donated funds, grants received by APF, and City funding, improved tree maintenance and new tree plantings will occur at BSP.
Continue reading “Update from the Advocacy Committee”

Bypass Tunnel Options

The City of Austin Watershed Protection Department has been busy evaluating the Bypass Tunnel (BT) repair/construction options. So far around $100k has been spent researching different options to prevent continued deterioration and extend the life of or replace the thirty-four year old structure. The original assessment included three options, namely repair, modification, and complete replacement of the BT.  The three main categories have been expanded with sub-options, namely 1., 1a., 1b (Stabilization), 2, 2a (Pipe-in-a-Pipe), and 3 (complete replacement), with the addition of two options, namely Piers and Other Options.  All of these options were presented to the Environmental Board on August 19 by Mr. David Johns of the COA Watershed Protection Department.  He was so kind as to furnish the slides depicting the various cross sections of the various options.  These slides can be found on our website.  As you review the slides, keep in mind that they generally are arranged from the least expensive to the most expensive.  At this point, everyone has their own opinion as to the best option, depending on which considerations are valued at that moment, considerations being pool closure time, cost, flow capacity, endangered species, longevity, site disturbance, and constructability.

Option 1, the least expensive, least intrusive, and probably the least durable, is Stabilization.  It adds a floor to the existing structure to stop the leaks in the bottom, add strength and weight, as well as side slope control.  Option 1a lines the inside of the BT and includes poolside and side slope stability components.  Option 1b adds even more ballast inside the BT and replaces the lost capacity of the BT with a sidewalk which doubles as an overflow ditch during floods, with a wall on the poolside.  The advantage of options 1 is the cost.  If funding is limited, better this than nothing.  The minus is that you continue to maintain an older structure with unpredictable problems in the future, failing joints, new holes, who knows.

Picture 1

Continue reading “Bypass Tunnel Options”