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Communities Weigh Options to Limit Flooding

The Huebner Creek Flood Mitigation Project would remove several properties from the 100-year floodplain along the creek — by realigning and widening the channel in the creek — and provide for erosion control.

(TNS) - Recent rain and thunderstorms were a reminder to Leon Valley residents of the impact flash flooding has had on their community in the past. In response, the city is working on a proposed plan to reduce the impact of future floods.

The Huebner Creek Flood Mitigation Project would remove several properties from the 100-year floodplain along the creek — by realigning and widening the channel in the creek — and provide for erosion control.

Huebner Creek, which flows through center of the city, is prone to flash flooding. Over past several years, flooding has forced some residents to evacuate their homes, forced road closures in the city and caused damage to property and homes.

Approximately 14 percent of the city is in the 100-year floodplain near Huebner Creek, as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which includes between 260 to 270 properties.

Widening Huebner Creek

City officials went over details of the Huebner Creek Flood Mitigation Project at the April 19 Leon Valley City Council meeting.

Melinda Moritz , Leon Valley public works director, said the way Huebner Creek is configured creates a bottleneck for water flow coming through the city. She put up an aerial map showing that starting north of the city limits, the channel width of the creek is 440 feet wide. As the creek flows into the city limits, it narrows to 170 feet wide, then to 160 feet wide as it passes the intersection of Evers and Poss roads . It then goes down to 25 feet wide at Raymond Rimkus Park , located at 6440 Evers Road .

The creek then increases to 40 feet wide between the Huebner-Onion Natural Area Park , adjacent to Raymond Rimkus Park , and the historic Huebner-Onion Homestead . As it goes underneath the Bandera Road bridge, the width of the creek increases drastically to 150 feet wide and to 400 feet wide south of the bridge.

Moritz said the Huebner Creek Flood Mitigation Project would alleviate the bottleneck by realigning and widening the creek channel from Bandera Road north to Evers Road .

In the section between Bandera and Evers roads on which the proposed project will focus, there are approximately 76 properties in the 100-year floodplain, Moritz said.

Because of funding limitations, Moritz said the proposed project would be constructed in four segments, with the first segment focused on realigning and widening Huebner Creek from the Bandera Road bridge north to Cherryleaf Street on Poss Road .

Moritz presented the council with four options for the first segment of the project. Option one: Widen the creek channel to a 500-foot bottom width, removing 53 properties from the 100-year floodplain. Option two: Widen the creek channel to a 180-foot bottom width, removing 42 properties from the floodplain. Option three: Widen the creek channel to a 75-foot bottom width, removing 18 properties from the floodplain. And option four: Widen the creek channel to a 50-foot bottom width, removing 18 properties from the floodplain.

Since option one would take out most of Raymond Rimkus Park and Huebner-Onion Natural Area Park , adjacent to the Raymond Rimkus Park , it was opposed by council members.

The remaining three options would remove less acreage from Raymond Rimkus and Huebner-Onion Natural Area parks.

The next steps

After a lengthy discussion, the council consensus was for Moritz and City Engineer Byron Sanderfur to explore the probable costs of option four of the first segment of the project, including figures for engineering and construction.

As part of this option, the creek would be expanded to a 50-foot bottom width in front of Raymond Rimkus Park and then be widened further at the Bandera Road bridge.

Moritz said the city has information from a two-year study conducted on a portion of Huebner Creek and the floodplain by U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The study, which was completed in July, provided the city with valuable data, including the location of utilities.

"We now know all kinds of things about the creek we didn't know before," Moritz said.

In addition, the city will need to find out what utilities will need to be relocated or buried should the creek be widened, Moritz said.

Moritz said option four would reduce the potential for the most common floods — two-, five- and 10-year floods.

As for possible funding sources for the project, Moritz said the city could seek a grant or low-coast loan from the Texas Water Development Board or revenue bonds from the city's stormwater fund.

Council, public weigh in

City Manager Crystal Caldera said the council also has the option of doing nothing, especially since the widening of the creek would cause disruption to both Raymond Rimkus and Huebner Natural Area parks and could require the removal of trees.

"Trees are sacred here," Caldera said. "It always becomes a contentious item."

But, Caldera said, the city doesn't have any other vacant land that would be utilized to address flooding.

"If you are trying to address flooding, this is going to be the only section (park area) that you're going to be able to utilize and be able to do that," Caldera said.

During the flood of Oct. 17, 1998 , over 6 feet of water from Huebner Creek inundated Raymond Rimkus Park . A sign along the walking trail at the park reminds people of how high the floodwaters got. On May 25, 2013 , the city received nearly 10 inches of rain, with water reported in 15 homes. And four years later, in August 2017 , eight homes were evacuated due to flooding, and the city closed streets surrounding Raymond Rimkus Park .

Councilman Josh Stevens said the city must do something, especially since development north of the city limits in San Antonio impacts water flow coming into Leon Valley .

"They're going to shed more water on our city," said Stevens, referring to the developments outside of the Leon Valley city limits.

Evan Bohl , a Leon Valley mayoral candidate, said one of the issues he gets asked about is flooding. He said he favored the city's moving forward with a plan split between options two and three, suggesting an 85-foot width around the park and increasing the channel to a 100- to 120-foot width toward where the natural area is closer to Bandera Road .

"I have confidence most of the community" could get on board with "removing just a portion of the park ... to solve or greatly mitigate" flooding, Bohl said. "You are taking homes out of the floodplain; everyone would be thankful for that."

Matthew Hodde , a former councilman, said the council should keep an open mind.

"This is a safety issue," Hodde said. "Don't be afraid to change the park, the way that it operates, the way that it's laid out. No, we don't want to tear down heritage trees, but every once in a while, we have to do that for the betterment of everything. Please, I'm asking you, look way beyond what you want to do right now."


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