Trinity Levee Repairs on Track to Beat FEMA's Deadline, But Corps Stresses Approval "Cannot Be Guaranteed"

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Photos by Sam Merten
Trinity Trust Foundation chair Mary McDermott Cook says Dallasites will be running from her as fund-raising for the Trinity project resumes.
It was all smiles and back-slapping this afternoon as the city, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Trinity River Corridor Project partners celebrated the "fantastic news," according to Mayor Dwaine Caraway: The levees are expected to be repaired by the end of the year, and the cost range of the remediation dropped $50 million.

The original cost estimate to install cutoff walls was between $100 and $150 million. Now it's $50 to $100 million and will be paid by reallocating 2006 bond funds related to water and floodway improvements.

Caraway cited the "devastating news" from two years ago -- when the Corps deemed the levees "unacceptable" and gave the city a list of 198 items to fix -- but said the city "didn't give up" and "stayed the course as a unit." He said the city will submit its final 408 permits (required to green-light construction on the levees) next month and anticipates their approval by the Corps in July.

"This means we can continue in the direction we're headed," he said. "We should have our levees repaired and improved to meet our 100-year standard by December."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set a deadline of the end of the year for the city to complete repairs before it remaps the area's flood zones.

TRCP Committee chair Dave Neumann said 193 of the 198 items have been addressed, stressing the city chose not to back down or fight back when the Corps first decertified the levees. He also thanked U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson for their efforts.

"We anticipate recertification if we stay the course in spring 2012, which is a stone's throw away," he said.

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Col. R.J. Muraski
Col. R.J. Muraski with the Corps said the city has met all of its milestones since October 2010 and pointed out that the city's consultant (HNTB) is responsible for the levee certification. The Corps's role is to make sure the plan doesn't adversely impact the levee system's performance or function, he said, adding that its approval of the plan isn't a done deal.

"Approval for the proposed levee remediation plan cannot be guaranteed -- let me emphasize that; it cannot be guaranteed -- until the reviews are complete," he said. "However, we're very encouraged by the preliminary data and information that we've received to date from the city and are optimistic that the design will be sufficient to allow for an approval in July."

After the presser, we had some questions for Muraski but were referred to TRCP project manager Kevin Craig, who we were told had the expertise to give us accurate answers. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

We asked: How many cutoff walls will be necessary?

"You should ask the city that because they're finalizing the design," Craig told Unfair Park. "The last I've seen is between two and three miles."

And how thick?

"I don't know that kind of detail. It's basically the size of a backhoe." (No idea what that means.)

Can you briefly describe the process of installing the walls?

"You probably need to talk to HNTB about those kinds of things."

HNTB vice president Jerry Holder told us there will be either two or three cutoff walls (also known as slurry walls), with one on the east levee and one on the west levee. The total combined length of the walls is approximately three and a half miles, most of which is planned for the east levee, and they will be three feet thick. He described the process as "a mixing technique."

"You take the soil out of the hole, mix it with bentonite, create a slurry with water and put it back in," he said. "That produces a waterproof area, so that the water that was trying to move through a sand layer before, for instance, is cut off."

We also tracked down City Manager Mary Suhm for an update on the second Santiago Calatrava-designed bridge -- the Margaret McDermott Bridge. She expects to bids to open for the project in mid-2012; however, there's still a significant funding gap. Suhm stressed no city money has been dedicated to the project and none is expected to be.

So where's the money coming from?

"I'm working on it, OK?" she said. "I don't have an answer."

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45 comments
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warden62
warden62

But didn't Ron Natinsky claim that the funding gap was just sooooooo close to being closed for the next Calatrava bridge? What gives?!? Was he lying?

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

I'll take 4 tickets, 50 yard line. Tell me where to send the check.

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

Isn't TRCP a city project? Does TRCP project manager Kevin Craig work for the city? I thought he was with the COE...

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Yes, the TRCP is a city project, but the Corps is a partner, and Craig serves as the project manager for the Corps.

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

Thanks Sam. Do you know who will chair the TRCP Committee when (ok, IF) Neumann fails to get re-elected?

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

If Angela Hunt is named chair of TRCPC the city could sell tickets to the TRCP monthly meetings.

I want season tickets. :)

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Even if Neumann is reelected, he could be ousted. That will be determined by the next mayor, and I'm guessing each of the candidates would approach their committee appointments differently. This is pure speculation on my behalf, but I could see Kunkle, if he wins, naming Angela Hunt as chair.

Stan
Stan

So what flood control projects are being delayed to fix the levees? I hope it isn't the pump stations that nearly failed during the last big rain storm? If so, there could be flooding in West Dallas/Oak Lawn/East Dallas the next time we have a decent rain or a hurricane lingers here in the fall.

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

"The total combined length of the walls is approximately three and a half miles, most of which is planned for the east levee"

Is that because the east levees are is worse shape, or because of who lives east of the levees?

Anonymous
Anonymous

"The City didn't give up". Translation, the city spent its time and resources pressuring various officials and groups to ease up on us instead of immediately focusing on how to make the levees safe from a potentially devastating flood. So we're safer on paper. You know, you can get a rape victim to recant her story if you make her feel badly enough about what happened, tell it was her fault, that she was asking for it. Amazingly, the incidents of reported rape decrease. That doesn't make young women any safer. Sure, the analogy is a little harsh, but it still seems to me that the city is working under the assumption that the Corps is wrong in making standards tougher and that we're not in any real danger.

"2012 ... is a stone's throw away". Does he believe that enough to move to one of the affected areas? Because there can be lots of storms between now and then.

I also second Wylie's WTF regarding our vanity bridge.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Bits and Pieces have been reported about Kay working behind the scenes and some questionable rule / word changes when it came to how the Corps Of Engineers would be looking at the situation.

We have a this is what we want it to be crowd in Dallas ( I guess other city's have them as well but i only know about Dallas .)

I am not going to bring up if something is needed or not .We are way beyond that. And truthfully we have some interesting ideas on the table .

We are now at the point of what is not only involved with the TASK at hand ? The cool stuff people want to build .

But an important issue about what costly work has to be done to prepare the the area for such a project in the first place.Somehow over looked as our Leaders are Focused on Opening day.. and the after party.

We have a this is what we want it to be crowd in Dallas ..Let me rephrase that a bit ...When bids are opened Our leadership group says That might be what something "Cost Done Right " But how close to right can you get with what "WE" want to spend on that ?

The Large Marge is at a Discount .

And City hall once had Aqua Man Parking . Not sure if they still have it today.

Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

As a citizen of Dallas, I am in favor of the pretty bridges for Dallas.I am pleased the city has a sufficient number of wealthy people to pay for them. What I don't understand is why wealthy people spend megamillions on these types of improvements when the school budgets have been slashed and teachers allowed to be terminated. The education and training of future Dallas citizens should have a higher priority than it clearly does,at this point.The Arts District is a great addition if you are wealthy. For the impoverished citizens of Dallas, it means nothing.Double standards for the wealthy and the less fortunate are signaled by these bridges.Can we focus on how we are going to fund are public schools? Prepare the next generation to make Dallas better through strong and ethical leadership? The leadership at Dallas City Hall better find some creative ways to bolster education in this city.Note, the county is building additional jails.Perhaps tackling the problems in the poor areas of the city is more appropriate.Then again, we can not "sell" projects for the poor via bid rigging and kick backs or influence peddling.Maybe the state will allow gambling only in the poorest areas of the state and large cities.

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

Because DISD schools suck. You cannot send your kids to DISD schools. You must use private. So why should wealthy people give more money (they already give a lot of taxes) to send the illegals to school?

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

"Because DISD schools suck. You cannot send your kids to DISD schools. You must use private".

That's odd, how did my children and all of their friends graduate DISD and wind up at USC, UT, UCLA, Princeton, U of A, UNC, Yale, NYU, BYU, Notre Dame (the list goes on and on)?

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

Woodrow is a cool and now IB World School.

Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

So by fixing the levees, does this automatically guarantees there will be a Toll Road?

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Nope. There's still a massive funding gap with the toll road, not to mention that the Corps hasn't approved its design yet.

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

I am sure these slurry walls will just happen to to be wide, have lane stripes, and will grow toll booths too!

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

Dave has enough gas industry money that he can grease plenty of palms.

Wick
Wick

Sam, In spite of your perpetual naysaying, the levees will be fine. You choose to be the boy who cries wolf, instead of the little Dutch boy who plugs the hole. -W

Watson
Watson

Why should Sam have to plug the hole. He was on the correct side of the issue, along with Schutze. Let Leppert, Mary Suhm, Natinsky, Neumann, Sheffie Kadane, and all the others who pretend there's nothing wrong with the levee issue, as long as they can get their tollroads and fancy, expensive bridges--let them get out there and press their thumb to the leaks.

cbs
cbs

Agreed. This is an amazing project and could be a game changer for Dallas quality of life. This is one I hope folks have the perseverance to stay with and see it to its full conclusion. Is it perfect, no, but it is moving forward...despite the Observer's constant proclamation of death.

My bet is there is zero chance White Rock Lake could get built and/or approved today; yet, it serves as wonderful purpose in this city (and is an underappreciated jewel).

scottindallas
scottindallas

What changes, the levees retain their utilty? Wow, that really will change Dallas. We had levees, and we still will--man, it's hard to get my head around all the changes.

Watson
Watson

Christ. It's been 13 yrs since the bond vote on the project. All I've seen is payoffs to studies and people grabbing millions for nothing. Now they want us to take it on the chin when they say there's no money left to do any projects.

I say leave it alone until we get honest men and women in charge.

Joanne R
Joanne R

I pray and hope we get a huge flood that takes out the levees and washes away City Hall bldg and takes the Belo office bldg along, too.

MattL1
MattL1

Yeah, that's not a good thing. I hope that doesn't happen.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Alright Matt, the Green Bay emblem was one thing, but now Red Sox? You're just a sorry front runner. I suppose you'll wait to see who wins the Championship before picking an NBA team. Sorry, that is truly sorry.

MattL1
MattL1

I don't feel like arguing right with anyone other than the folks who decided that Dallas and Houston are the same place right now, so here's a compromise measure. It's my real head.

MattL1
MattL1

Shut up.

I moved around a lot as a kid. None of my teams were front runners when I started cheering for them. But go ahead, assume away.

Bob
Bob

You are praying and hoping for "a huge flood that takes out the levees"? And kills untold numbers of people and destroys untold parts of the heart of this city? You are praying for catastrophic devastation of Katrina proportions? I guess that you and Fred Phelps worship the same god. Call him--he needs your help.

Your momma would be so proud of you!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Dont take life so seriously, jeezus, have some fun and lighten up, u might find it fun

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I am taking the Dr Robert Jeffres route.After the flood I shall pronounce God Brought this on Dallas for its sinning ways !

Dallas_Joe_Schmo
Dallas_Joe_Schmo

I think a bit of sarcasm is to be read in that post. However, if you read it literally, she didn't say she wanted the flood to kill anyone and destroy anything other than city hall and Belo's offices...which coincidentally I'm fine with too!

Bob
Bob

Oh, so she wants a very selective flood. Yes, let's destroy the levees, and let the ensuing flood destroy two buildings that she doesn't like, but spare everything else.

You may have found sarcasm in her post; I, however, spotted hatred, along with an incredible capacity to ignore the horrendous consequences of her hatred.

Any flood that takes out the levees is going to have those consequences. I guess she thinks that, as long as the objects of her hate are destroyed, it's, like, whatever.

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

Trust me, the Corps' approval IS guaranteed. The right palms were greased to get that okie dokie.

Natinsky and Neumann manipulations via EBJ et al.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

[We also tracked down City Manager Mary Suhm for an update on the second Santiago Calatrava-designed bridge -- the Margaret McDermott Bridge. She expects to bids to open for the project in mid-2012; however, there's still a significant funding gap. Suhm stressed no city money has been dedicated to the project and none is expected to be, so where's the money coming from?

"I'm working on it, OK?" she said. "I don't have an answer."]

WTF?

busterkeaton
busterkeaton

Operation "Ticket Jim" shall be upped in the coming days!!! Now, repeat after me,"There is NO Funding Problem"...Good, Good...

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