Down the River

Dallas is still using flood control money to scam black people

The new protection that would be offered by the Trinity River project will protect the first block of houses into that neighborhood on the other side of Lamar, but that's it. We're talking a few dozen homes. The hundreds of houses beyond that first block get nothing--no new or additional protection. All the main protection is out your window, toward the west and the river, on the other side of Lamar.

To continue our tour of the proposed newly protected area, then, we are now passing the home of the Okon Metals clan, good folks all, I'm sure; The Trinity Recycling Family; oh, and here are some people I feel as if I have known all my life! So this is where Elsie the cow lives, in this big mansion owned by the Borden Dairy family. They have her picture right on the front gate.

I actually feel kind of good about Elsie being protected. You go, girl. But I always thought Elsie was white.

Mayor Kirk says the Trinity River project will protect "thousands of black families." But the area to be protected actually looks like this.
Mark Graham
Mayor Kirk says the Trinity River project will protect "thousands of black families." But the area to be protected actually looks like this.

Now, hang on a minute, because we need to get on the viaduct and cross the river. On the other side of the river, where this turns into State Highway 310, we will be passing through the other significant area of new flood protection offered by Mayor Kirk's river plan, according to plates A-37 and A-38. This proposed protected area is actually going to be out my window on the east side of the highway.

Oh wow. The first home here belongs to the K-Line family. They collect railroad boxcars. I think they may have gone a bit overboard. I wonder where they made their money.

And now finally the big one. The really big show. Here at the down-river end of the protected area, the part of the city where Mayor Kirk says he is going to rescue "thousands of black families" from flooding, we have the immense baronial estate of the Tamko Roofing Products family. What can I tell you? These people have their own water tower. I would describe the architecture as Temporary Pennsylvanianate.

So you ask me this question as we turn home. Is there no real flooding in residential Southern Dallas? Is everything already protected?

The answer is no, everything is not protected. And yes, there is flooding. So how is it that the construction of two major new levees down the reach of the river that flows directly into Southern Dallas could offer so little protection to any of the residential areas?

I spent some time last week poring over the two thick ring binders and talking on the phone with flood control experts looking for an answer to this very question, and I learned that this question has an interesting answer. Most of the uncontrolled flooding to which Southern Dallas is still prone is caused not by the Trinity River, according to the available data, but by the creeks flowing into the river, especially by White Rock Creek.

This flooding is related to the Trinity, because when the Trinity floods, backed-up floodwater on the Trinity blocks the water washing down from the creeks, and that makes the creeks back up. The backed-up creeks inundate adjacent neighborhoods.

But building dikes along the Trinity not only doesn't address that problem, it may make flooding worse by slowing down the flow of the creeks.

These are the kinds of questions implicit in the OMB's criticism. Far from being fly-by-night or 11th hour or obscure, as the News tried to argue, the OMB criticism is an alarm bell. A really serious alarm bell. It is our warning that we are on the verge of making a terrible mistake that will imperil our lives and our property for decades to come.

This isn't just about using flood control money to kite the value of old industrial property along the river. The hustlers behind this deal also want to build an eight-lane freeway right down the riverbed, making flooding much worse, doing so little to relieve traffic that the federal government won't pay for it, but leading from the area by Fort Worth where the Perots own a private airport down to an area where people are talking about building NAFTA-related truck centers.

That's all within the limits of legitimate play, as far as I'm concerned--American politics and commerce. The part that is outside those bounds--the thing that goes way back and way deep in Dallas--is the manipulation of poor black people and their property to make it happen.

That part does not wash.

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