Pardon, the City Owes the Corps of Engineers $15 Million For Floodway Work?

TrinityLeveeSectionatCOmmerce.JPG
The new-look Trinity River Corridor Project Committee meets for the first time this afternoon with two items on its to-review list: Dallas Floodway Extension Repayment Agreement Discussion and Trinity River Corridor Project Overview of Flood Control Components. Shortly after they were posted Friday night I sent them to Schutze, who's off Unfair Park till Thursday whilst he finishes a cover story. Perhaps he knew why the city owes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $15 million; that, and flood control's kind of his ... thing.

He said he'd review both presentations and send back a few bullet points worth keeping an eye on during the 3:15 meeting. Last night I received the note you see on the other side -- a column's worth of opining. Jump for Jim.
The first briefing is very ...very ... very confusing. If I put my head on my desk and read it with my eyeballs sideways, I think I can figure out that the city owes the Corps $15 million-plus -- the full amount the Corps advanced to the city to pay for some kind of work, and some change, but definitely not bank interest. Also apparently, and very sadly, most of those funds are no longer with us.

My favorite word in this briefing is "opined." Why do we suddenly owe the Corps $15 million? Well, they just called up one day and opined that we did. And, shit, you know: Somebody opines on you, you got to pay.

The closest the briefing comes to an explanation is that the Corps opined that the "cash disbursements represented an inaccurate and inappropriate interpretation" of the agreement by which the feds gave us the funds in the first place. So, yeah. Fifteen million dollars -- I'd say that's inaccurate and inappropriate. Like, "O.K. you punks, we know you're in there. This is the FBI. We got you surrounded. You're inaccurate and inappropriate!"

Jeez.

Do you think our elected representatives on the city council will ask any questions about this of City Manager Mary Suhm? Like, "Mary, when do you bring us the tray with head on it of the person who did this?"

I don't think so. I think they'll say, "Well, gosh, Mary. Well, darn. Well, boy-oh boy-oh. You know, what're you gonna do? Just send the bill to the taxpayers. They're the ones who wanted to be all flood-protected and such."

Then we have the second briefing. My favorite part of this one is the map of the vast area of Dallas that will be destroyed if our levees break, but they didn't have enough paper to show all of the portions of South Dallas that will be wiped out.

Did you notice that? It shows all of the area in northwest Dallas and way out to Walton Walker and downtown and Oak Cliff that will be killed. It provides great detail of the threat to the city's sewage treatment plant. Oh, no! Not the sewage treatment plant! That's our favorite thing!

But then when you get to the lower right-hand corner where the devastation goes into Southern Dallas ... DARN! Ran out of paper! Can't show that!

Interesting, because the way the entire project was marketed in the first place in 1998 in order to win black votes was on the basis of environmental justice. Finally South Dallas would get protected too.

I think it's scary, not even having Southern Dallas on the map any more. It's the kind of thing that used to frighten sailors back before Ferdinand Magellan sailed around the world in 1519-1522. I love South Dallas. I hope those bastards didn't opine it.

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58 comments
AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

Lets see how Perkin's strategy of litigating people into submission, works against the USA???

Downtown_er
Downtown_er

Well, now that KBH and EBJ cannot help, time to try Cornyn again. The last political H(D)ope. 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Griggs says the City needs some "quick wins" to encourage activity within the Trinity. Jordan says they've been holding off doing much there, because they would have to rip it out when they build the toll road. Griggs reiterated the need for some quick wins.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Griggs asked Jordan how much has been spent on trails between the levees to date. She said about $300,000 plus design fees.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Out of exec session; repayment agreement not to be placed on council agenda. City attorneys instructed to meet with Corps attorneys. Zero discussion. Very weird.

JimS
JimS

Maybe the Corps will say, "Well,  we didn't know you had a real lawyer. So sure, just forget about the $15 million." Whaddya think?

JimS
JimS

Yoohoo! Ain't gonna pay! All right! This can only get juicier.

JimS
JimS

Jill Jordan is talking faster and faster. The councilmembers' eyelids are drooping lower and lower. Ah, several are beginning to drool, and two have now put their heads down on the table for 40 winks. The magic works again.

JimS
JimS

Depending on what they say when they come out of there, this should all be blamed directly on the council, not staff. We elect them to run the joint. This is their job. This is what they are there for.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Jordan just gave a VERY convoluted, somewhat non-sensical explanation of the history of the matter, and says that the Corps made some sort of "boo-boo;" that the City was supposed to receive a "credit" (not cash) from the Corps. If this were to be the case, then it seems that there would be offsetting savings, somewhere, that would make this a non-issue.

However, she didn't reveal in her presentation how we would get a credit anywhere else. Rather, she said they need to figure out how to reprogram money, cancel another project, etc. to fund this.

They're now in executive session.

...one more thing-- the Corps is insisting the repayment agreement be completed by month's end.

Paul
Paul

I just love the first slide of the presentation ... string thingy bridges, kayaks on a cool blue mountain stream ... people smiling and happy on the bike trail and horse trail ... scenic overlooks ...

then (sound of the death star) this is about FLOOD CONTROL ....

Face it, the Trinity is generally a mild creek that doesn't do much and then every so often it tries to reclaim its former stream bed.

It is misleading to say that the flood of record from 1908 is the same height as the 100 year event.  The difference is that the river was over twice as wide at the Commerce Street bridge in 1908 as it is now.

For the same flow through the current floodway as through the river bed in 1908, I estimate the height of the water level as 452 feet.  Simple math ... half the width, twice the height to have the same flow area.  Some other factors will change this, most notably what it is the average channel velocity in the 1908 velocity as opposed to the same flowrate through the current floodway and what the available head is in the 1908 channel versus the current floodway.

My point is that the level shown for the 1908 flood event which is the flood event of record is misleading.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Hey why not tell them to take that money out the next millions they send us and we will consider the  money paid back ?

Or say we already sent them a check..With this kind of money flying around whats 7 to 15 million?

http://www.usdebtclock.org/

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

I am hopeful that Sandy Greyson and Angela Hunt may ask Mary Suhm "exactly what properties did we buy with DFE fed dollars that the Corps now says we shouldn't have bought with DFE dollars?"  And I'm just guessing, but could it be that those properties were some of the properties purchased on the north end of the project that were necessary for the Trinity Parkway? 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Wow, even by City of Dallas' standards, those are two awesome presentations. 

In the first, it looks like the City did something really, really wrong with some Federal monies, the Feds got pissed, and now they want their money back-- all of it.... of course, far be it from Mary Suhm to actually discuss what actually happened.

The second appears to show a substantial part of the City of Dallas being submerged in flood waters if the crappy levees fail.  Again, the reader is left to ponder how much of Dallas will disappear because the area where the flood waters really start to spread at the edge of the map goes off into some sort of "black (or brown) hole".

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I think it will work fine for him.  Remember, his goal isn't to win, it's simply to generate more work for his legal department.  This single deal could end up burning a bunch of attorneys' time.

replay
replay

Griggs needs to tread carefully. It sounds like the Corps of Engineers/City of Dallas "partnership" may be wearing thin at the edges.

replay
replay

Uhhhhhhhhhh, NO. I don't think that's got a chance of happening. My guess is that the Corps of Engineers would not have "opined" on the (il) legitimacy of the City's expenditures, and demanded repayment, without having ACE attorneys look at things.

RTR
RTR

Sounds good, and all municipalities bluff, then the Gov't shows their real power, such as cutting off all future funding, and the muni craters. 

COD - Your bluff is short lived. 

RTR
RTR

JimS - 

They are all caught in the get away car. Nobody is exonerated. They are all guilty and involved. 

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

IF they come outta there. Vonciel said 10, 15 minutes ... 45 minutes ago.

JimS
JimS

What did they get, credit or cash?

replay
replay

Did you hear any of the committee menmbers blurt out "What do you mean they want their money back?"

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

I told Jim: As many council committee briefings as I've suffered through in recent years, I've never seen one go into exec session.

replay
replay

You make some valid arguments. As with everything presented by City Staff, one always needs to study carefully to find the "gotchas".

Paul
Paul

Perhaps the only significant difference is that the Corps is assuming that all of the flood capacity of all of the reservoirs above the Commerce Street bridge is available to reduce the peak level of the flood event of record.

whodunnit
whodunnit

Yes, some "accountability" (for a change) would be refreshing.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

That's what I was thinking.... wasn't one of them a motel?

Also, it appears that the City still has $7 out of the $15 million.  Yet the Feds want ALL the money (including the unspent portion) back.  I wonder why that is?

whodunnit
whodunnit

But, don't worry about the flood.........FEMA won't have the maps updated for a few years, so a flood wouldn't dare to occur before then (yeah, right........).

AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

Oh, no, cuz they legally cut off the federal funding along the way!!! Talk about fighting while being suffocated. It just speeds up the death. 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I don't know.... it sounds like he's suggesting some common sense kind of stuff... like the types of basic park like amenities that the City of Irving and the City of Ft. Worth have placed along the Trinity River in their respective jurisdictions.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Yes, and then Hill concluded by saying that Griggs had some good ideas. Really strange--- it's as if the committee had been hijacked by citizens or something.

As an aside, Jordan had this kind of stunned, deer-in-the-headlights look during her back and forth with Griggs. When he asked how much had been spent on trails to date, it took her forever to answer; then, it sounded like she said she's never tracked stuff like that (and seemed kind of bewildered that anyone would even ask that question--- but maybe that's me seeing ghosts, I don't know).

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

They were not allowed to ask questions. Vonciel sent it straight into executive session after Razor wrapped her presentation.

INSIDER
INSIDER

Robert - 

I cant say, but a lot of first are coming for the City Of Dallas. Worst times in History, which will lead to the best times, after the massive cleanup!!!! 

JimS
JimS

City and Corps will not update their measurement of runoff, even though this is a fairly simple matter of aerial photography, probably even satellite by now. There are huge questions that they do not address, showing us the string things instead. If this were a carnival, Suhm would be wearing a candy-stripe blazer and a straw boater hat, selling tickets out in front of the tent called, "Forget about flood control. See the two-headed calf instead."

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

I recall one being a motel.  I thought the demand amount was curious too.  Either they are really pissed and are saying you can't have any of the $15M even though it's already budgeted and spent, or we have really already spent the full $15M and called it something else, such as a category for which we spent more than we had in bond allocation but didn't want to have to admit we spent more than we were allowed to spend.  Either way, tough questions should be asked and Jill should be required to be open and honest. If that is possible.

Tom L (No, Not That L)
Tom L (No, Not That L)

I also wonder why the city has only managed to spend $7 of the $15 million in misappropriated funds. I expect better shenanigans out of Mary Suhm than that!

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Would it ever be possible for Uncle Sam to get so upset that the FBI, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and other various federal agencies just team up and stage an armed takeover of the City of Dallas and Dallas County?  Maybe make Dallas some sort of special territory like the Northern Mariana Islands or Guam?

replay
replay

Yeah, they don't want to get Uncle Sam upset. He's got a whole lot more staying power (and lawyers) than the City does. The City will be on the losing end of this litigation, if they so dare.

replay
replay

You'd probably have the "deer in the headlights" look too, if you saw the last ten years of your work going up in smoke.

Paul
Paul

"City and Corps will not update their measurement of runoff, ..."

This makes the matter even worse for in 1908, as the ground would have reduced the runoff rate, yet in 2011, no telling what the runoff rate is.

Of course they (The Corps and City) may say that the flood control reservoirs mitigate any increase in run off rate in the watershed area of the flood control reservoirs and the increased runoff rate downstream of the flood control reservoirs is mitigated by the smaller area of uncontrolled run off.

If you are ever able to get close with a Corps engineer (the ones actually doing the work), they will tell you that all levees eventually will fail.  I asked one about this once and he said: "They are levees, not dams."

A levee only has to be designed and built to support the water stream for a limited period of time.  The question is how high for how long.

I would be interested in the weather record for 1908.  Does anyone know where to find it?

As someone else said: "Ignore that man behind the curtain."

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Only odd if your first priority is flood control.  Both of us know that Jill Jordan, et al.'s first priority was getting the road started. 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Here's a link to info on the motel acquisition:http://cityhallblog.dallasnews...

In 2008, City Council approved the acquisition of the Delux Inn near the Irving city limits for $3.2 million, with the funds supposedly coming from 1998 bond funds.  I have no idea whether its related to the present problem or not.

Re-reading the presentation, it looks like the Corp approved money to be used for design and construction on the levees and the sewage treatment plant.  Instead, for some reason, the City took the money and started buying properties with it.  Really odd.

replay
replay

If the City took the federal money that was "earmarked" for one thing, but then redirected the money to cover other non-approved expenditures, and that is what sounds like happened, I'd want my money back also.

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

That $8 million was spent on building the greywater rafting 'attraction'.

The other $7 million is reserved for fixing it.

I don't blame CoE, I'd want my money back too.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

In studying the presentation further, it looks like she may have--- on something totally unrelated.  That would explain why they couldn't simply return the $8 million (that she should still have) and just work out a repayment plan for the monies she wrongfully diverted.

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