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SLIDESHOW: [A] Two Americorps volunteers survey the destroyed Fischer Store Road bridge on June 26, a little more than a month after the Memorial Day weekend floods in Blanco, Hays, Caldwell and Guadalupe counties. [B] A road sign warns drivers that Fischer Store Road is impassable at the Blanco River. PHOTOS by JOCELYN AUGUSTINO

by BRAD ROLLINS

NEAR FISCHER — After a series of unforeseen delays, Hays County commissioners authorized County Judge Bert Cobb on Tuesday to execute an agreement with private landowners that apparently makes way for installation of a temporary Fischer Store Road bridge over the Blanco River.

flood of 2015 icon blueFollowing an executive session discussion of the real estate, the court unanimously approved an “improved property agreement” with two riverfront property owners from whom the county needs an easement or something similar to build the bridge.

“Hopefully we can build off this momentum and we’ll have a temporary bridge constructed and in use in the next 60 days. About the same time, we’ll start construction on the permanent bridge,” Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley said. “Things are moving forward and looking up.”

Terms of the county’s agreement with property owners were not discussed in open court and related documents were not immediately available.

The Fischer Store Road bridge was toppled late May 23 when uprooted trees, splintered houses and other wreckage borne by a swollen Blanco River formed a massive logjam. Although the river picked up even more debris as it passed through Wimberley, the Ranch Road 12 bridge downriver was spared structural damage, in part, because major flotsam passed high above the road bed on the rising floodwaters.

Less than two weeks after the disaster, on June 2, state and county officials signed a funding agreement to fast-track reconstruction of a permanent Fischer Store Road bridge. Since then, the Texas Department of Transportation’s Austin district engineer has completed engineering and design for the $2,950,000 project and is already soliciting bids for construction.

As of Aug. 19, seven firms had submitted proposals for the job: Greater Austin Development LLC, Capital Excavation Co and the Dan Williams Co., all based in Austin; Navasoto-based Fuqua Construction Co.; San Marcos-based Hunter Industries; Hondo-based Relmco Inc.; and Peachtree, Ga.-based Kiewitt Infrastructure South Co.

TxDOT is scheduled to award a construction contract on Sept. 3. Construction is expected to begin in October or November, Conley said, with an anticipated completion date before the Memorial Day weekend flood’s one-year anniversary.

In the meantime, Cobb and Conley have advocated for a temporary replacement, possibly by laying flatbed rail cars across the river channel. With dozens of subdivisions and hundreds of homes cut off from emergency services based in Wimberley, the downed Fischer Store Road bridge was particularly problematic before Hays County crews repaired and reopened low-water crossing at Valley View Road on June 29 and Wayside Drive on Aug. 1.

Replacing or repairing damaged and destroyed roads and bridges in Hays County will cost more than $10.9 million, according to estimates by local officials submitted to the Texas Department of Emergency Management. Damage to other public facilities — buildings, parks, utility systems and flood control dams — is estimated to cost nearly $9 million.

Map

Of significant Wimberley area bridges and low-water crossings damaged by the Memorial Day weekend flood, the totaled Fischer Store Road bridge [2] and Hidden Valley Road low-water crossing [7] are the only that remain closed nearly three months later. Both of those structures were completely destroyed.

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One thought on “Conley hopeful Fischer Store Road crossing can be completed in 60 days

  1. I live about a mile below the Pleasant Valley Crossing for Fischer Store Road across the Blanco River. Many of the homes on G.W. Haschke Lane downstream of the high bridge were destroyed by the flood. Many ancient cypress trees along the river were pulled up by the roots or snapped off like twigs never to be seen again.

    Have we really thought through the rail car low water bridge?

    What happens when this fall’s anticipated “Godzilla” El Niño delivers another flash flood down the valley around Halloween? Will these flat cars turn into giant scythes through every cypress tree we have left as they surf the rush of high water coming off all the land being cleared?

    We might want to wait until after the October rains to stretch all these steel flat cars across the river.

    They should have left the old concrete low water bridge in place as they did upstream. It’s still serviceable to this day.

    Every single day we cut down more trees and lay down more impervious cover. Every single day we add more CO2 to the atmosphere. Every single day the oceans grow warmer and more and more water evaporates as warmer air holds more of it only to fall back down somewhere. Rainfall can flow off the land faster and in greater volume than it ever has.

    We might think twice before assuming the Memorial day flood was a one-off event. Much more likely it was a harbinger of things to come. El Niño was just getting started when the fifty to sixty foot high flash flood came through the canyon upstream of our place.

    Remember the twelve to seventeen inch rains falling around here in 2013 – the Halloween flood? Then another 500 year storm in May 2015? Or was that a 1000 year flood?

    A twelve inch rain embedded in widespread storms upstream can do it all over again this fall.

    Rail cars in the river… Really? How does this work?

    Tim Jones

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