AUSTIN, Texas - The dock and rescue boats for Travis County ESD 1 at Jones Brothers Park in Jonestown are still floating, despite water levels dropping.
However, many other boat owners have been left dry, and it's clear time is also running out for first responders.
"That’s correct we will be trapped," said Capt. Lee Buckley, who along with Battalion Chief Chris Sukup, took FOX 7 Austin out on the fire/rescue boat.
They have to slowly and carefully navigate what’s known as the Sandy Creek arm to reach to the main body of Lake Travis. The four-mile trip follows a narrow passage which emerges near Starnes Island. The depth in several spots along the route is only about five feet.
"And as the water levels are shrinking, the potential for hazards are doubling. We have more calls on the lake than we’ve ever had at this time of the year," said Capt. Buckley.
The dock and rescue boats for Travis County ESD 1 at Jones Brothers Park in Jonestown are still floating, despite water levels dropping. (Rudy Koski)
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In past drought years, ESD1 has docked at local marinas but on a temporary basis. Finding long term space now in deep water for the dock and boat is proving difficult.
"How much time do you have to get this done? Oh we don’t have probably a month and we are going to start seeing tremendous low levels where we are having now access to this area at all. Just trapped? Trapped. Boat is useless? That’s correct," said Buckley.
The cost of relocating is certainly a factor, but there is a bigger problem. Most of the members of the boat team are here in Jonestown at the Special Operations Station.
"From here, from our current station that responds here, now, it’s a four-minute response time, from alert tones to being on the water, moving towards the incident. The one proposed solution we have is at a private marina, but what that does for use is it increases response times from dispatch time, to just getting to the marina to 14 minutes," said Chief Sukup.
That longer response time is why ESD 1 administrators are still searching for a closer location. Finding that deep water is becoming more difficult with each passing day.