San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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[VIDEO] KXAN News, the Austin NBC network affiliate, reports on the forthcoming reopening of the Fischer Store Road bridge. [MAP BELOW] 

by BRAD ROLLINS

Less than nine months after a wide swath of Hays County was devastated by a flood of nearly biblical dimensions, San Marcos and Wimberley area residents are marking major milestones in the recovery effort.

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ABOVE: Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner helps plant trees at Five Mile Dam park in northern San Marcos on Feb. 5. The Blanco River Reforestation Project — being developed through an agreement between Hays County and an Austin-based nonprofit called TreeFolks — will replace thousands of trees swallowed by the May and October floods along an 80-mile stretch of the Blanco River. PHOTO by MOSES LEOS III/HAYS FREE PRESS

The Memorial Day weekend flood damaged or destroyed more than a dozen bridges and low-water crossings in southern Hays County at a cost that will ultimately run into the tens of millions of dollars.

But the Fischer Store Road bridge, built in the 1990s to weather a 100-year flood, is among the single most significant and costly structures to be washed away by the raging river. Images of the toppled bridge became reminders of Blanco River’s power to visit destruction on everything within its reach.

Now workers are pushing to complete a new Fischer Store Road bridge in time for a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Friday, Feb. 26. If that deadline is met, the $1.5 million bridge reconstruction will have been designed, engineered and built in exactly 280 days — an objectively impressive turnaround for an emergency public works project of its size and cost.

“This means so much to so many people and is just another symbol of our community getting back on our feet and recovering,” said Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley, whose negotiations with the Texas Department of Transportation secured funding for the new bridge within two weeks of the flood.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and members of the Texas Transportation Commission are expected to help Conley and County Judge Bert Cobb celebrate opening of the new bridge.

Meanwhile, another ambitious Conley project is working to mitigate environmental damage in the river basin by replacing thousands of trees along an 80-mile stretch of the Blanco River. Developed through an agreement between Hays County and am Austin-based nonprofit called TreeFolks, the Blanco River Reforestation Project will restore native riparian vegetation critical to filtering runoff, slowing floodwaters and providing natural habitat for native wildlife.

On Feb. 5, the program took root in visible form when volunteers planted more than 1,700 cypress, palmetto, burr oak and buckthorn trees at Five Mile Dam Regional Park in northern San Marcos. More than 200 property owners have so far applied to participate in the reforestation project, officials said.

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[1] Fischer Store Road bridge at the Blanco River near Wimberley and [2] Five Mile Dam parks in northern San Marcos.

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