Dallas City Council Votes Not to Remove the Standing Wave on the Trinity For Now

The Standing Wave
The Standing Wave
Harry Wilonsky

The Standing Wave — the $4 million Trinity River white-water feature for kayakers that was deemed too dangerous to traverse almost as soon as it opened in 2011 — will stay in the river for now. The City Council voted against removing it Wednesday, choosing instead to weigh other options, a process that could lead to its being repaired.

Mayor Mike Rawlings, who voted against removing the wave outright, said he was "emotionally for" removing the whitewater "mistake" but that he couldn't completely support doing so until every option has been vetted. According to city staff, that means the earliest the wave could now begin being removed is June 2017.

Staff has suggested that it might be cheaper to fix the wave. Something has to be done, however, because of demands from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which says that the Standing Wave blocks navigation on the Trinity in violation of federal law. The wave was supposed to allow for a fun challenge for expert boaters traveling down the river as well as an easy pass through for those who wanted an easy ride. It doesn't provide either, at the moment. The Corps, Assistant City Manager Mark McDaniel told the council Wednesday, doesn't want to see the process of doing something about the wave stall. If it does, the city could face an enforcement action led by the U.S. Justice Department.

Council member Philip Kingston, who voted to remove the wave immediately, said he believed the council was being misled by city staff.

“Staff told us removal was a $3 million exercise. I don’t believe that for one minute. I have been told there are cheaper options. I am a little irritated those haven’t already been presented to us. This Standing Wave, this whitewater death trap, is an albatross. When you’re wrong, when you mess up, the best thing to do is fix it as quickly as possible and get past it, and the fix here is removal,” Kingston said.

According to a staff report at Monday's Transportation and Trinity River Committee meeting, the city expects it will have a firm contracted to fix or remove the wave this summer, and a plan to do so by mid-2017.

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