AFD closes Barton Creek due to rising water

The Austin Fire Department says they've been on rescue calls at the Barton Creek Greenbelt 23 times since January 1st. They say four people have died.

Ed Scruggs is a commissioner on Austin's citizen-led Public Safety Commission.  He says during a recent meeting it was determined when it comes to safety at the Greenbelt during rough weather, enforcement gets a little confusing.

"The Fire Department decides whether the water is safe to access, the Parks Department makes sure the trail is safe to access, and Austin Police Department is responsible for enforcing those rules," Scruggs said.

He says those departments need to get on the same page.

"We should get back together and discuss 'should the water be open when the trail is closed?'" Scruggs said.

Scruggs is also hoping for some signage improvement.

"There's nothing here describing what a safe water level is in the creek.  There's nothing here telling you what the fine is if you access the trail when the gates are closed," Scruggs said.

The Fire Department says when the water in Barton Creek gets to 1500 cubic feet per second, they look at closing it.  It was at 2250 CFS when they shut it down Tuesday afternoon.

Scruggs says it might be a good idea to talk about adjusting that.

Jacob Dirr with Homeland Security and Emergency Management says they are looking into it.

"Right now there are discussions that are underway to look at, just even determine 'do we need to modify those?'  And that includes bringing everybody to the table, it includes the Fire Department, it includes the Parks Department, it includes the Police Department, making sure there's consensus," he said.

Just minutes before Barton Creek closed on Tuesday a group of kayakers was about to get on the water.  And during Monday's rain, Jason Mann kayaked Bull Creek...he told us he knew it could be dangerous.

"I wouldn't run this thing over 2000 CFS, it's about 600 right now, an acceptable level.  That's the thing you've got to know what you are doing and have some experience and that's how people get killed if they just jump into something and get way over their head," Mann said.  

"If people believe 'oh there's really nothing we can do, this is everyone's own personal responsibility when they come out here.'  True.  But I don't think the answer is to do nothing," Scruggs said.

The Austin Police Department says the fine for violating the waterway closure is no more than $500.  They also tell me there is apparently no fine for violating the trail closure.
   
The city says Barton Creek, the greenbelt and the pool will be closed until further notice.  They will re-evaluate Wednesday around noon.

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