Why's Leppert So Pissed Off at the Corps of Engineers? Because He Can't Handle the Truth.

O.K., I've been laughing up my sleeve over the mayor's whining remarks last week, complaining that certain unnamed "federal partners" aren't being very nice to him. Hanging around City hall last week for various dumb events, I was able to chat up a couple of people who are keeping quite close tabs on the issue of the Trinity River levee repairs that Dallas is going to have to carry out in order to keep the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers off its back.

Uh, folks. That's the one. Mayor Tom Leppert won't say exactly what he was whining about. But it's the Corps. And the levees. And, as Sam pointed out yesterday, sure, he's probably pissed off at federal highway officials as well.

Here's the point. From what I am hearing -- and it's from very knowledgeable sources -- every single thing Tom Leppert promised during the 2007 Trinity River toll road referendum is going to turn out to be untrue. Wildly untrue. The kind of untrue that will make him look like a fool -- and the horse he rode in on.

The federal agencies are mummed up. The people who spoke to me spoke off the record, because they own real estate down along the river, and they don't want City Hall to carry out a vendetta against them. But they also have the ability to get City Hall to tell them some things.

And based upon their talks with city officials, it's their understanding that the corps will demand as a levee fix that concrete curtain wall that'll bedrock pretty much the length of the levees. The question is whether the curtain wall can be dug and poured from the top of the existing levees -- by digging a trench 20 to 100 feet deep -- or whether the levees have to be demolished first.

They're not even hopeful about convincing the corps to go in another direction. They say they're only fighting the flood insurance. To carry out that massive a project the city will need years. And all the borrowing capacity it has left for anything.

While Leppert and friends were campaigning for decorations, the basic plant went to hell. Now we're about to be upside-down because of it.

The people I spoke to about the feds are dismayed about what will happen to their insurance and to the development value of their land along the river when all of that land gets put into high risk flood categories by FEMA because the levees are no good. They want FEMA to give Dallas a grace period until the levee-rebuild gets done.

But I don't know about that. The flood insurance requirements are actuarial. They're based on real flood risk. FEMA can't rule by fiat that there isn't a flood risk if there is a flood risk. And right now, thanks to the inattention of Leppert and crowd, the levees have been deemed worthless as flood protection.

So Tom Leppert has his noise out of joint. That's what happens when, after a lifelong career as a business consultant and a put-up political candidate, you finally walk into reality.

You know -- reality. The one thing Carol Reed can't handle.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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