City 1, Corps 0 In Fight to Fix Trinity Levees

SeepageCutoffWall.JPG
From Monday's briefing docs prepared for the council's Trinity River Corridor Project Committee
What you see above is the new plan to improve the Trinity River levees, which is markedly different than the one outlined on Page 46 of the April 2010 Dallas Floodway System briefing that showed the so-called cut-off wall sunk into the levees. Of course, back then it was guesstimated that it would cost $100 to $150 million to get the levees acceptable again. On Monday, the council will be told that number's now a fraction of a fraction of that -- $20 to $30 million, with construction set to start by March.

What accounts for that new number? Says Monday's Trinity River Corridor Project Committee briefing, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is no longer concerned about those pesky worse-case scenarios outlined in briefings after briefing since the levees were deemed unacceptable in February 2009. Instead, it'll just deal with what the Corps and city officials refer to as "'most likely' conditions." It's part of the Corps' new "Risk Assessment Philosophy": Where once the Corps said "conservatism is encouraged due to uncertainties," now it believes in "conservatism based on 'most likely' scenarios."

Says the briefing that was posted last night, it's all about cutting costs and trimming time and giving into cities, like Dallas, that have complained the Corps' post-Katrina standards were too high a hurdle to clear. "This Risk Assessment process represents a new approach for the Corps in identifying flood risks and solutions, and will impact Corps policies and procedures in the future," says the briefing. "The methodology is still being developed and changes may occur along the way. Corps is choosing to advance the process on Dallas Floodway due to its high national priority."

Long story short: The city can cut back on levee fixes, so long as its sump pumps work and it has an evacuation plan on hand. Something involving solar-powered water taxis, pool noodles and prayer.

Schutze says this is big news -- national news, even, or at least enough to get him to City Hall for Monday's 3 p.m. meeting. He'll be easy to spot: Jim will be the one wearing rubbers.


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18 comments
Tony
Tony

That drawing must be wrong? Where's my damn tollroad? Oh wait, is that it under all the blue?

Montemalone
Montemalone

Hey, those multi-million dollar museum tower high rise condos are looking pretty good.Just compare them to the property costs in Venice, and they're downright cheap! I'm sure we'll get some nice quais eventually.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

oak CLIFF townie

Thank the all knowing RAMTHA for guiding me to this house on the top of the hill!

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

If you take a look at page 17 of the presentation, it appears that they are going to move the location of the seepage cutoff wall from the levee itself (where it would have gone down all the way through the levee well below ground-- creating a solid barrier between the river and the area outside the levees) to a place midway between the levee and the river channel, resulting in a much shorter wall (and probably accounting for much of the cost savings).  The problem with the new solution is that water will be able to penetrate the area between the seepage cutoff wall and the levee when the river is at flood stage (thus possibly allowing water to penetrate the levee and resurface on the other side).

As Jim correctly points out, it looks like the new plan anticipates flooding, but relies on a combination of sump pumps, a well-executed evacuation plan, insurance and a willingness on the part of some owners to bear losses to mitigate loss of life and permanent property destruction.

Branden Helms
Branden Helms

I get both sides of the issue. Yes, all of a sudden cities across the country are being asked to spend multi-millions of dollars to upgrade previously acceptable levees.

On the other hand, Hurricane Katrina probably would not fall into the most likely category.

Cujo
Cujo

So how does this effect flood insurance rates? My guess is that they are still going up sharply due to the levee issues that have been exposed.

Bob
Bob

Sounds like Jim is misguided on the preventive capabilities of condoms.

Or he has plans that don't involve public works.

Harvey
Harvey

This could be a bad sign about their prospects for us getting rain in the next century. 

TimCov
TimCov

So, in other words, political pressure was exerted on the Corps to compromise safety, again.

Luckily, they are forecasting another 8-10 years of drought for Texas.

Montemalone
Montemalone

You missed the giant ACME sponges the city will be using

jfpo
jfpo

Well, after Perry prayed for rain the state almost burned to a crisp. This should just about ensure that we get a 100 year flood.

Rangers100
Rangers100

Or, people made the right decision after initially making a bad one.

That happens in life sometimes. No tin foil hats needed.

Cujo
Cujo

We live in an apartment so it might be part of the rent but I'm pretty sure I'm not in any kind of flood plain.

TimCov
TimCov

It's not a "tin foil hat" argument. The Corps, after Katrina, was insisting on places prepare for worst case scenarios (since they end up getting the blame when these scenarios happen). Suddenly, the Corps goes changes this policy. Why would they choose to do that?With the wall being placed in between the levee and the river, the flood waters are more likely to be able to undercut the levee. A large part of the Katrina disaster was cascading pump failures. One pump would fail, which would put additional strain on the other pumps and cause more to fail until almost all of them failed.My advice to anyone who lives in a an area protected by these levees, or owns a business in that area, is to move if you can afford to do so.

Anonymous
Anonymous

It doesn't necessarily mean that, but I think any rational person who weighs the body of evidence (mainly the aggressive lobbying by anyone who doesn't want to pay more for flood control) could come to the conclusion that the Corps didn't just change its mind in a vacuum. Just like it didn't change its mind after Katrina "just because".

TimCov
TimCov

So, you are saying that putting people's lives and property in danger is a good decision?

Rangers100
Rangers100

"Suddenly, the Corps goes changes this policy. Why would they choose to do that?"

I just told you.

I get that you don't like the decision change.  That doesn't mean some nefarious bogeyman caused the change.

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