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New coalition tasked with Lake Austin master plan

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TWC News: New coalition tasked with Lake Austin master plan
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Lake Austin is a local favorite for skiing, fishing and pleasure boating, but the lake is becoming crowded and development along the shore is quickly growing.

As a way to plan for the lake, city officials formed a task force consisting of lake stewards, stakeholders and property owners and tasked them with charting a course for the future of Lake Austin.

"Lake Austin is at stake. Its future is at stake," Lake Austin Task Force member Mary Neely said. "The regulations we had twenty years ago are now harmful to the lake."

The beauty of Lake Austin is breathtaking, but the lake suffers from too much of a good thing.

"Twenty, thirty years ago, when it was all skiers you had very small wakes and you didn't get much shore erosion,” John McIntyre, dock and bulkhead engineer, said. "Now you've got these boats putting out much larger wakes."

The task force’s challenge is to take the patchwork of regulation developed over the last few decades and come up with a comprehensive master plan—a new vision for Lake Austin.

They are taking on three major issues: development, lake use and environmental quality.

"Everybody wants to do what they want to do. And you can't have that and preserve the lake," Neely said.

The growing popularity of wakeboarding and wake surfing are causing much larger waves than before.

"Most of the people that use the lake don't have property on the lake,” McIntyre said. “They come out for weekend, day use, things like that. Most are probably not even aware that they're causing a problem on the shorelines."

But for the task force, finding solutions will be slippery.

"They may decide that for the most part, the status quo is OK," Chuck Lesniak, Chief Environmental Officer for the City of Austin, said. "Or, they may find that there are really significant issues, that changes need to be made on how we manage and use the lake.”

The Lake Austin Task Force expects to present its ideas to city council next spring, but there's still time to get involved.

The group is planning another meeting followed by a public comment opportunity next Monday. The meeting starts at 4 p.m. Oct. 22 at 811 Barton Springs Road in the first-floor conference room.

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