First, Dallas’ officials in charge of the Trinity River — or, more specifically, the still-flooded Trinity River — want to focus on the good news, which is: The levees near downtown are working, which is to say downtown and Trinity Groves and the Design District aren’t under water. “The system, knock on wood, has held up well,” says assistant city manager Mark McDaniel, who was recently put in charge of the Trinity River Corridor Project. “The investment we’ve made over the last few decades has paid off.”
But with parts of the city still drying out, up and down the Trinity, city officials agree the system is far from perfect — especially when you consider the fact we’re still missing a three-mile-long levee promised two decades ago. More about that below.
But first, houses in West Dallas — near Singleton Boulevard and Bernal Drive — were nearly underwater at the end of last week because of torrential rainfall. City officials say stormwater drains couldn’t keep up with rains falling at the rate of seven inches per hour at one point. A pump station is proposed for that area — the so-called Trinity Portland Pump Station, to be specific, which was just approved in the federal Dallas Floodway Record of Decision. Per the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that pump station and other “improvements will reduce the risk of neighborhood flooding.” When neighborhood flooding occurs, commercial and residential buildings may be in need of Dallas foundation repair.
Says Dhruv Pandya, the man who tasked with keeping an eye on Dallas’ flood waters, “a pump station there would be very helpful.” He said the same thing in Arlington just yesterday.
But officials with the city’s Trinity Watershed Management say there’s no money to build it.
“It’s 35-percent designed,” says interim director Sarah Standifer. “We’re now awaiting funding.” That would come from a combination of city and federal funds.
The city also has no money to build the long-awaited Lamar Levee, proposed as part of the Dallas Floodway Extension Project that emerged from the 1989 and 1990 floods — when the river crested, respectively, at 43.3 feet and 47.1 feet. The highest it got in May was 42.01 feet, just one week ago — when, as we reported at the time, businesses were forced to close as the rising river filled parking lots and knocked on front doors. Poor drainage and severe drought can increase the needs for Dallas foundation repair.
According to the city, the Lamar Levee would be “three miles of protective levee … located along the Union Pacific Railroad that is parallel to Lamar Street. This Lamar Levee will provide the Lamar area with 800-year flood protection, while extending the Dallas Floodway East Levee from the DART Bridge to the Rochester Park Levee.”
If and when it’s built. Because, again, there’s no money.
The pump station and the levee are “on the drawing board, and we’re going to continue to push for funding,” says McDaniel. “They’re very much on the radar.”
The Corps will actually brief the council on Monday about plans to cost-share two projects: repairing the channel near Interstate 45 and in the Lower Chain of Wetlands and building maintenance roads-trails in the Dallas Floodway Extension. The total cost for this is expected to be $14 million. The city would be required to pay $6 million, and only $1 million of that has been identified. It could also cost much more than that, according to city documents, depending on what the city and Corps finds under the floodwaters when they finally recede. Additional expenses may occur if Dallas foundation repair is necessary after discovery displays damaged foundations.
And none of this addresses the fact there are still big pieces of Northwest Dallas underwater along the Elm Fork of the Trinity, thanks to Corps’ lake releases upstream that continue a week after it stopped raining. Roads are still closed; so too business, including the Elm Fork shooting range and the city-owned Luna Vista Golf Course.
“We were speaking with the Corps a few minutes ago trying to find out what their action plan is and how much they’re going to release for how long,” says Pandya, the Trinity Watershed Management’s assistant director. “For seven to 10 days we’ll have continued released, then controlled release, which will bring the water lower than what it is. That will last for a long time. But if we get more rain it might change.”
Rain is in the forecast for next week, speaking of things on the radar.
Says Pandya, “I hope it goes somewhere else.”