In reading the latest news about flood dangers downtown and the Trinity River Project, it's important to know that this is an 11-year-old story that Dallas officials and The Dallas Morning News are just now being forced to acknowledge. And even at that, the acknowledgment is grudging and slow to come.
The Dallas Morning News today reports that deposits of sand beneath the Calatrava bridge footings may make it impossible to complete construction. Well, we said that last week. The News reported a fragment of the same story a week ago but got it wrong. Obviously they went back, based on our story, asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers more questions and got it right.
I believe firmly that if the Observer had not reported the real story a week ago, The News would never have gone back to get it. Tooting my own newspaper's horn? Sure. Tough. It's part of the larger story, folks. How could it be that the Observer reports the truth about this project in full and in detail for a decade, and only when the thing blows up does The News admit to any of it?
Let's go back 11 years.
More self-tooting again -- but tough, again. On December 28, 1997, the Houston Chronicle published a story I wrote under the headline, "Against the current: Dallas' popular plan to rebuild the Trinity River with levees has its detractors -- flood control experts who see disaster in the years to come."
Now let me un-toot it a bit. I wasn't Woodward. I wasn't Bernstein. I was the Dallas bureau guy for a Houston newspaper. I did exactly what my boss told me to do: "Call all of the national experts on flood control and see what they say about this Trinity River project."
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Duh. Look up names. Call phones. Ring-ring. Ask question. Write down answer. Man, I must be Sherlock Holmes here.
The response from the experts was scathing and universal. They all said that Dallas's plan was upside-down, reckless and stupid.
Had Dallas Morning News editors ever once in more than a decade taken their greenest cub reporter and said, "Go find out what flood control experts say about this plan," the cub would have come back with my same story. It's not a gray area.
I'm writing about this in my next column. The news here is not that experts have just found out the Trinity River plan and the idiotic Calatrava bridges are dangerous. The news, the real story, is that this knowledge has been on the table from the get-go and the only officeholder who had the smarts or the chutzpah to say it was Angela Hunt.