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Bans on Floating Habitual Structures on Lake Travis

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At a May 24th meeting The Travis County Commissioners Court by a unanimous vote permanently banned floating habitual structures on the lake. A little over 30 residents attend the meeting to oppose the structures, they spoke of cited safety and water quality as reasons for their opposition.

Commissioner Karen Huber stated “We are not talking about navigable houseboats, were talking about habitable structures that are permanently anchored.”

The issue of floating habitable structures reached the court when a developer proposed a 120-home marina designed to float in a cove near Lago Vista.

Developer John Shipley addressed the court in April and asked to meet with county staff.

Exectuive director for the county’s Transportation and Natural Resources Steve Mannila stated “”We met with the developer and he had a nice presentation, but we still have serious issues with this type of development in this type of a location,”

Manilla later noted that Shipley’s designs included sprinklers for fire safety, but said fluctuating lake levels and “not having access to dry land” concerned staff.

Shipley did not attend the May 24 meeting. Manilla said he was unsure if he was directly invited, but “he knew we were coming back to court.”

The residents in opposition are urging the court to oppose the floating structures. Currently, the Lower Colorado River Authority has banned building the structures there through Oct. 31.

Resident Dave Evans described potential fire hazards in the proposed marina.

“There is no direct fire road access,” he said. “If there’s a fire, the only courses of action would be to wait for a ferry—imagine evacuating that many people in a matter of minutes—and the other is to swim.”

He said the area’s tall, steep cliffs prevent first responders from fighting a fire from above or having available fireboats fight it from below.

Manilla noted that access, particularly during stormy weather, would be difficult.

“On the Fourth of July, folks are popping off fireworks. They think, ‘I’m OK, I’m over a lake.’ It just takes one to veer off and catch a bad wind,” he said.

Rod Schaffner said he was concerned about what would happen to the marina’s waste disposal system during a flood.

Other residents mentioned Lake Travis’ history of flash flooding, Travis County’s lack of large fireboats and the cost for the county and LCRA to develop rules to regulate floating habitable structures.

Lake Travis is a flood control reservoir that also supplies water to the City of Austin and downstream communities, according to documents attached to the meeting agenda.

According to the LCRA, the lake has 7,000 permitted boat slips in marinas and 7,000 private boat docks, as well as five known floating habitable structures.


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