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Dallas' Incredible Shrinking Lakes

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White Rock Lake, just for grins, is 1,015 acres. Based on what I heard yesterday, the Trinity River lakes we voted for in downtown in 1998, when finally built, will be one lake, 20 acres, 10 feet deep.


Oh, and the money for it is mostly gone. Even to dig the 20-acre thing -- pretty much what people in West Texas call a cattle tank -- the money will have to be filched from other accounts.


But the money for that toll road on top of the river, the one that will cut off downtown from all the parks they're supposed to build? Goin' strong. Don't worry about that money, man. It's in the bank.


Those are the main take-aways from a City Council committee meeting yesterday on the status of the Trinity River project. Yeah, 20 acres, a lake small enough that it could be closed by one family with diarrhea, not to be gross about it, but you get what I mean. Not a lake. A pond. In July a body of water that small and that shallow in downtown Dallas Texas is basically a saucepan.

May I share with you the part that I found sort of hilarious? Originally we were supposed to have more like 300 acres of water in three small conjoined lakes along the Trinity, but you have to remember that those lakes were designed in two phases.

First they were designed on a napkin by a political ad agency in 1998 trying to think of some shit they could put in the TV ads to get people to vote for a toll road that nobody needed or wanted. In the second, later design phase, the lakes were redesigned by former Dallas Observer columnist and Mayor Laura Miller for something she called "The Balanced Vision Plan," evoking a quality for which she was not known here.

Since then, according to yesterday's briefing before the council's Transportation and Trinity River Project Committee, some actual engineers have been looking into it, and they found out four things:

  1. The old bridges across the river have piers that sit on mud instead of going down to bedrock, so if you dig out a lake around them the bridges will fall down (not good).
  2. If the lakes get any closer to the river than 200 feet, the federal government will require the city to build actual dams between the lakes and the river at huge expense (not possible).
  3. If you dig deeper than 10 feet anywhere in the river bed, you punch through the clay cap and get into sand, and all the water will leak out as fast as you put it in (shit).
  4. There's no water anyway. The river doesn't have enough water in the summer; the lakes will evaporate; you have to fill them from water wells; the wells cost $1 million apiece.

So, look, if we wanted to look at this in biblical terms, what do we think Jehovah might be trying to tell us about creating lakes along the Trinity? Does Jehovah actually have to come down here to Dallas himself and paint it on the front of City Hall? If you say yes, you better be wearing rubber-soled shoes.

I am working on a column about this for next week's paper. Councilman Scott Griggs has uncovered some pretty amazing stuff about what happened to all the money, which I will share with you in some detail. When he got into it at the committee meeting yesterday, committee chair person Vonciel Hill told him he was talking too much. Exactly! The public definitely is not supposed to know all that stuff.

I think Jehovah has spoken to us, and he has said, "OK, 20 acres, about 10 feet deep, then I never want to hear about this again." The city's plan apparently is to do just that. I try to imagine the tens of thousands of little vignettes as citizen after citizen treks down to the river in search of his lake. It puts me in mind of The Cocoanuts, the Marx Brothers' first real movie in 1929, based on Florida real estate scams. I hear the sound of thousands of incredulous forehead slaps, followed by faster harder mosquito slaps.

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