City 1, Corps 0 In Fight to Fix Trinity Levees

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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