The Corps of Engineers Wants to "Armor" the Trinity River, Despite the Fact That it's a River

Categories: Schutze

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Democracy in action last night. Never a pretty picture.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of flood control in this country, held a meeting at City Hall to update the public on the Trinity River Project, a massive campaign of public works that has dragged on without significant progress in the center of our city for 15 years. Perennial city council candidate and community activist Gwain Wooten was there to take it in.

See also:
The Power of Lobbying: Trinity Levees Are Unsafe SUPER Safe, the Corps Says Now

Wooten, an aging City Hall gadfly, came in with a cadre of supporters halfway through the session. Apparently she was disconcerted to see an army colonel in camo seated at center stage. Col. Charles H. Klinge is the new commander of the Fort Worth District of the Corps.

"I know we got a bunch of police in church and schools and buses and everything," Wooten said from the audience. "But we gotta have the military in this to fix the river? How did the armed forces get involved in fixing a river?"

Wooten came into the room just in time to hear Rob Newman, a civilian engineer with the Corps, explain a concept for "armoring" some levees, which means covering them with concrete pavers so the dirt underneath won't wash away in a flood.

"You all are fixing to fix up a beautiful river that's full of blood and lead and dead people and everything," Wooten said, citing things that were all partially true, also all partially crazy.

"What's going on?" she demanded. "That's what I want to know. You all are talking about putting some armor, military terminology, in a river, and I don't understand that. Armor is armor."

When Newman, the engineer, explained that his agency doesn't have anything to do with the dead people or pig blood in the river that have made news in the recent past, Wooten, seated right behind me, grumbled to herself, "I'm fixing to go. This ain't my meeting."

Look, Wooten is only an extreme example of how people in general just do not get water, especially when it has to do with flood control. Tell people what the Corps is really telling us now -- that they're going to build higher dikes and bigger dams -- and everybody assumes we're going to be safer.

But the Corps and its partner in the Trinity River project, the city of Dallas, know full well that the opposite is true. The more we mess with the river, the more dirt we pile up, the more we try to push it around for whatever reason, the more of an A-bomb we're building in our midst. All of that structure in the way of the water just builds up the pressure and makes the eventual catastrophe that much bigger and that much more inevitable.

Real solutions entail controlling run-off, which entails controlling development, which entails land-use reform, which entails being English. Which we ain't. (More on this in my column in the paper next week.)

Wooten got away before I could go whisper in her ear: "Gwain, two words. Agenda. Twenty-One." Hey, sorry, but if the public can't be informed and critical, at least the public can be paranoid. Next best thing, in my book anyway.


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16 comments
DanteAlligator
DanteAlligator

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers...where incompetence mates with corruption to create complete ineptitude.

casiepierce
casiepierce

I'm glad this woman was never elected to city council...

bryanr01
bryanr01

An armored river.  That says "world class" more than any bridge ever could.  Other cities would tremble at the mention of the Trinity, our urban assault river. 

BenS.
BenS.

Why would environmentally minded people be against gabion walls on the levees? The levees are unnatural to begin with and are static monoliths by design. I don't see the reason for hating the Corps of Engineers either. They are tasked with flood control.

The environmental folk should focus their attention on the gabion wall construction downstream that has forever marred the wild parts of the Trinity between Loop 12 and McCommas Bluff. Those projects are real eyesores, ones that cannot be seen from a car window on the I-35 bridge. Dallas Water Utilities is to blame for that.

schermbeck
schermbeck

So...when you gonna write about them wanting to drill and refine gas in the Trinity river flood plain? City staff is actually proposing to put 1-2 acres or more of raised platforms per site in the flood plain in order to pull this off. I'm not kidding.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Jim, as far as land use controls go with respect to flooding, all you have to do is look to Harris County and Houston as to how land use controls are implemented to control run off.  There were a series of rather disastrous floods in Houston and Harris County in the 80's that occurred in areas where there had been no prior flooding and were well outside of the 100  year flood boundaries, despite the weather events being only 5 to 20 year events.


Basically the implementation is that development of any parcel of land cannot cause an increase in the runoff rate.  For most projects this meant including in the landscaping basins that hold back rainwater and release it slowly.


Travis County has something similar.  But in addition to flood control there is also the goal of increasing recharge rates into the Edwards Aquifer.


Of course developers will scream, shout and holler like stuck pigs but the alternative is the massive amount of money that the City of Dallas now has to pour into the storm water drainage system for the Midtown/McKinney area.  The rains aren't any worse, it just that it is now paved over 100%.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

That may be river water but that's not the Riverbed  that's the  man made Flood Control Ditch .Given the chance the water  will find its way to the other side of the levee and its old meandering course .

 .

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@BenS. because they're better than non-porous walls.  Those walls exacerbate flooding by speeding it and being non-porous.   Other than making the problem worse, I don't see why anyone could have a problem with it. 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

Same thing here, as per 1980s out of court settlement with Corps. Signatories here have routinely ignored their obligation to enforce or granted waivers. The Trinity River project itself, in spite of ostensibly being a flood control project, had to be granted  a waiver because it  backs up the river and increases flood danger. Houston took subsidence and flooding seriously. Dallas, never.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@oakclifftownie no, water doesn't WANT anything, it does migrate to the lowest elevation.  The old riverbed has been filled.  High floods might be one thing, but Dallas is no New Orleans.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@JimSX @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul the problem isn't Dallas Jim, it's the growth and development north/up stream that has changed so radically, from Carrollton northwards the amount of impermeable ground cover is expanding, not in Dallas proper, but North/Upstream

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@JimSX @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

Could this be a rear guard action for the trinity tollway?  Since the tollway will reduce the cross sectional  area of the floodway, the water velocities will increase for the same flood event which will increase the erosion rate on the dirt levees, which now will need to be protected by concrete.


Hmmm???? ... Will the Trinity end up looking like the Los Angeles River?  There is one you know..


Off to adjust my tinfoil cap ....

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