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Abstract: Session C  8:30 am (Back to Session C)
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Blanco River Design Guidelines – Design Driven by Ecological Function

John Hart Asher
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Austin, TX

Authors:  John Hart Asher (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center), Michelle Bertelsen (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center), Ryan McGillicuddy (TPWD)

Properties near streams and rivers are desirable places for people to build homes and businesses, and a place where many connect with nature. However, the development of properties in or near riparian zones often depresses the ecological function of both riparian and upland components of watersheds. In addition, following floods, well-intentioned residents can cause unintended additional damage with poorly informed clean-up efforts. The Blanco River Design Guidelines were developed following the 2015 flooding of the Blanco River to address these concerns. The guidelines provide information on active restoration methods and an approach to development in which ecological function is placed at the center of design. This allows for the creation of inviting, social spaces for people while protecting the essential functions the riparian and upland properties provide.

In the design document there is a general discussion regarding riparian function, historical site conditions, and active methods for preserving or enhancing private landscapes, with a case study demonstrating how the LBJWC and TPWD would advocate for private property owners to deal with storm water and riparian restoration on their properties. This includes a complete design drawing set with commonly found conditions along the Blanco River such as upland, residential, canopy, riparian buffers, and river access points. The design gives landowners options for dealing with rainwater runoff, strategies for riparian plantings, and design suggestions to successfully blend “natural” and “formal” areas. Every landowner won’t necessarily be able to implement all of the strategies, but they can choose which components (upland, residential, canopy, riparian buffer, river access) make the most sense given their property type. Viewing each property as part of a larger riparian system strengthens the impact of each suggested strategy, and more importantly, contributes to the overall health of Texas’ rivers.