Policy To Protect Waterways During Snowmelt

Updated: 02/26/2014 6:46 PM
Created: 02/26/2014 4:49 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) - The city of Austin has 140 miles of streets that need to be plowed, and even though it still sits in a mountain-sized pile near Marcusen Ballpark, it’s eventually going to melt.

"When the plows come through there's all kinds of salts and sand and debris on the street, and that all goes into the snow piles," said Bev Nordby at the Cedar River Watershed District. And when the snow piles melted, all that stuff was ending up in the river.

"We did some testing of the surface water going into the stream and it had extremely high levels of salt," Nordby explained.

So the watershed district created a policy to address those concerns.

"So if you're within 100 feet of the stream, and even if it's within the flood plain and you have an approved plan through the watershed district you can stockpile the snow,” the watershed district’s Bev Nordby told us.

“They're concerned about runoff and so are we, and runoff into the Cedar river, so they want to oversee those sites and make sure they are improved with BMPs, best management practices to prevent solids from washing into the river when the snow melts," said Austin city engineer Steven Lang.

“They put barriers up with filtering fabric so everything kind of stays within the area of the snow pile and it isn't running into the stream and then they clean it up," Bev Nordby said.

The City of Austin has two sites permitted through the watershed district for dumping snow. But in a winter like this ...

"We did also get some other sites approved by them as well so we're getting all that covered," city engineer Steven Lang said.

“We also have to have some common sense, and if it's not a blatant, blatant problem we're not going to worry about it because it is a challenge this year with all the snow," added the watershed district’s Bev Nordby