Bypass Confusion or By the Way, Barton Springs Is Not Closed

An update on the bypass tunnel from FBSP Vice President, Gary Beyer:

I know, maybe it’s obvious to you that Barton Springs is not closed, but after the American Statesman July 22 article entitled, Barton Springs Could Close, many people assumed Barton Springs is closed and will be closed for the next six months or more.  Maybe it was the first sentence of the article which stated “Barton Springs Pool has serious structural damage and will probably need to be closed for six months or more for repairs, according to city officials.”   Although the next sentence stated that officials didn’t know when the pool would close, I guess many people just read the headlines and the first sentence. Or most likely it was a case of miscommunication, aka The Telephone Game where someone says to someone else, “ Hey, did you hear they closed Barton Springs?”  and the reply is, “Oh no, I better tell all my friends!”

When I went to work, my coworkers would ask, “How long is Barton Springs going to be closed.”  My son, Ben, accusatorily asked why I shut down Barton Springs, a follow on to the last time he sent me a phone photo of a tree limb that fell on the south hillside, narrowly missing him and his friends, whereupon he retorted, “Dad, one of your trees almost killed me.”  No, Barton Springs is not closed, and it’s not my trees, it’s everyone’s trees.

Bypass confusion, it’s everywhere.  What are we going to do?  What’s the next move? We, the Friends of Barton Springs Pool, are here to try to keep everyone up on the current status of the Bypass Tunnel (BT) as it evolves.  The current state of affairs is this.  Yes, the BT is seriously injured, beyond the original $250,000 set aside in the original estimate for minor repairs.  It’s majorly injured, to the tune of $2.5 to $4.7 million dollars (ouch!) depending on which one of the three options for the BT have been chosen.

At this point, the three options have not been fully fleshed out, read more confusion.  At this time city staffers are busily working on those options.  What we do know is that Option No. 1 is a short-term fix, which may or may not last very long.  Option 2 is a twenty-five, plus or minus, year fix which would reduce the volume of the BT from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 480 cfs, which is a reduction in performance, but would handle the majority of non-peak flows (not during flooding) during normal rainfall years (whatever that is).  Option 3, the most expensive, is a complete replacement of the existing structure, which would be the longer-term solution, thirty plus years, and would involve shutting down the pool for a longer period of time.

Keep in mind the complete engineering details have not been worked out yet, and everything is subject to change (read confusion).  But we the Board of the Friends of Barton Springs Pool are on this and will keep you informed as things develop.  We are going to advocate for the solution that makes the most sense aesthetically, economically, ecologically.

Oh yeah, ecologically speaking, the ecological constraints are serious.  One of the largest populations of  Barton Springs Salamanders is in Eliza Springs, behind the concession stand.  During drought years, Eliza Springs relies on the water level in the pool to keep the water level in the springs high enough to keep the salamanders alive.  Lower the water level in the pool during drought years and Eliza Springs dries up and the salamanders, well lets say, won’t do so well.  So if the water level is lowered for construction purposes during a drought, the population of the salamanders is threatened. But, it turns out that if the discharge from Barton Springs is 53 cfs or higher, then Eliza Springs has its own spring water supply independent of the pool level, and construction can proceed without threatening the salamanders.  Increased flow in Barton Springs requires increased rainfall, another unpredictable factor, which will continue to contribute to BT confusion.

According to the computer models, Pacific water temperatures off the coast of Peru are rising and El Nino is underway, which means that the end of the drought may be at hand, but we know how reliable weather prediction can be.   So construction can continue during high rainfall years.  But as everyone knows, flooding could slow or stop construction.  Do you have a headache now?  I do.  Swim on!

Gary Beyer
Vice President of FBSP