Gravel Bar-B-Gone!

By Emma Berkel

   With spring fed waters, a natural rock bottom, and rolling green hills, Barton Springs Pool has for decades been a source of pride and joy for the Austin community. Due to its consistent temperature and the warm climate of the Austin area, swimmers frequent the 900 foot long pool year-round. In addition, our beloved Barton Springs is home to a species of salamander which can be found nowhere else on Earth, the aptly named Barton Springs Salamander.

   However, late last year, increased flooding led to debris piling up at the deep end of the pool. As a result of that and the buildup that has accumulated over the years, the city of Austin had a public meeting on the 14th regarding the “Gravel Bar” that developed. According to Friends of Barton Spring Pool (FBSP) the Gravel Bar increases stagnation, traps silt, and makes the pool water murky.

   Years ago, a similar Gravel Bar was removed by a crane like vehicle that was driven into the pool to collect the rocks and the easily upset sediment. However, since that last project, the Barton Springs Salamander has been listed as endangered wildlife and the matter needed to be addressed.

   The meeting regarding this issue resulted in a site-specific amendment added to the Save Our Springs ordinance which would allow the clean up to commence.

   To better preserve the Barton Springs environment, the crane used to remove the debris will be given a temporary path and will be placed on a temporary metal pad. Furthermore, it was made clear at the meeting that the work would be carried out strictly on the south bank which would provide the most protection to the Barton Springs Salamander.

   The other option, which required divers to go down and remove the gravel bar manually, was ruled out when it was deemed by pool manager Tom Nelson as too labor intensive. As he pointed out, that method had also failed to resolve the problem back in 2006.

   According to the established plan, the removal of the Gravel Bar should be completed in conjunction with the bypass project, which will fill several holes in the concrete bypass culvert that maintains the water quality. If all goes well, both projects should be completed during the fall season and thus allow the Austin community to enjoy Barton Springs this upcoming summer.