Millions in federal funding awarded to Austin to help with buyouts after floods

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin will receive $12 million in federal funding for property buyouts as part of the Onion Creek, Lower Colorado River Basin Project.

Over the past two decades, the city of Austin has spent $36.5 million on the pro, including $7.8 from a FEMA grant, on buyouts to relocate over 300 households. This exceeded its $20.9 million budget for buyouts. Austin officials said they will also use this money to develop a plan to restore Onion Creek to its natural habitat.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell released a statement on Wednesday saying the project had been a passion of his since he served on the City of Austin’s Environment Board in 1999, but the Halloween floods put an urgency on the project the White House recognized.

“I cannot express enough gratitude to the Obama Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Onion Creek funding,” Leffingwell said.

The mayor also thanked Congressman Lloyd Doggett for his help to secure the funding. Onion Creek is within his congressional district.

“For people who live in these neighborhoods it means certainty, knowing that your home could be bought out. For the community as whole, that’s an economic stimulus,” Doggett told KXAN Wednesday.

Mark Witt owns a home in the Onion Creek neighborhood. It is part of the city’s current buyout plan.

“It’s time. This is going to be all parkland, and the Halloween flood definitely proved that it’s majorly in the floodplain,” Witt said.

The buyout plans don’t help everyone. William Chambers’ home is not part of the map for buyouts, which was a disappointment for him. He used his flood insurance claim to pay off his mortgage. Now, he’s got to start the repairs, Though, no matter how much he puts into his home of 26 years, it’s forever a tough sell.

“What we’re going to have now is, they buy out all these houses–a lot of them–according to that map, and what do you got? This little island of houses, surrounded by this, quote, parkland,” Chambers said.

The October 2013 flash flood in Onion Creek flooded 1,100 homes and killed four people.

The Obama administration will include the funds in the president’s fiscal year 2014 work plan.

 

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