After deadly floods, construction begins on new river gauge

Blanco River gauges (KXAN Photo)
Blanco River gauges (KXAN Photo)


WIMBERLEY, Texas (KXAN) — Nearly eight months after the deadly Memorial Day floods hit Wimberley, crews have begun construction on a new stream gauge upriver from the city.

During the floods, officials could only estimate the level of the Blanco River for miles. The first stream gauge along the Blanco was in Wimberley at Ranch Road 12. A list of local governments and other organizations, such as the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, discussed plans for adding more gauges to the river.

Now, crews are installing the first gauge where the Little Blanco river meets the Blanco river, according to Bob Joseph with the U.S. Geological Survey. Joseph says construction will also begin soon on another gauge near Crabapple Road on the river, southwest of the City of Blanco.

The Edwards Aquifer Authority has also agreed to help pay for a gauge at the Fischer Store Road. However, the Memorial Day flood destroyed the bridge there. The installation of that gauge is dependent on completion of construction of a new bridge, which Hays County officials have said is scheduled for completion in March.

In October, KXAN News reported a plan including five new stream or stage gauges upstream from the city. Funding is still in question for two of the five gauges. The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority also planned to install eight rainfall gauges. The GBRA intended to use grant money for the roughly $150,000 construction project, according to a letter obtained by KXAN News. The document also states that GBRA plans to pay the roughly $9,000 per year for operating the rainfall gauges.

“It was very much a cooperative investment and therefore that takes time for cooperators to bring their resources to the table,” Joseph told KXAN in October. “Most gauges, for a typical gauging station, is approximately $15,000 for operation and maintenance per year and installation is somewhere around $25,000.”

Those cooperators include Hays County, Blanco County, the City of Blanco, the City of Wimberley, the City of San Marcos, Caldwell County, Guadalupe County, USGS, GBRA, Lower Colorado River Authority, Edwards Aquifer Authority, National Weather Service, and the State of Texas Water Development Board, according to Hays County spokesperson Laureen Chernow.

Joseph says the group has not yet decided how to fund the operation and maintenance of the stream gauges.

Update – Jan. 21, 2016

USGS staff confirm crews completed installation last week of a new flood gauge at the Little Blanco River at Highway 32.

LittleBlancoRiverAtHwy32_20160120
New flood gauge at Little Blanco River

“This week our staff (also) began construction for the gauge installation at the Blanco River at Crabapple Road, wrote USGS Engineer Robert Joseph in an email to KXAN.

“At this time we do not have any plans to install additional gauges on Onion Creek or Brushy Creek.  However we will be installing an additional gage at the Fischer Store Road bridge on the Blanco River after the bridge construction is completed,” Joseph confirmed in response to a KXAN query.

After the 2013 floods, damaged USGS gauges were ‘hardened’ on Onion and Williamson Creeks.

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