Federal deadline approaches on Dallas levee fix

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on December 2, 2010 at 9:02 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 2 at 9:02 PM

DALLAS — There is progress to report on repairs to the Dallas Trinity River levee system — but a federal deadline is fast approaching.

The levees protect billions of dollars in property from flooding, and if they are not fixed by next December, a lot of businesses and homeowners will have to buy flood insurance.

The pressure is on to get the levees fixed.

The city finished most of the repairs that the Army Corps of Engineers found when it flunked the levees in a critical inspection.

For example, the city reinforced the outfalls through the levees that channel flood water into the river against erosion.

But now engineers must figure out how to protect the levees from all the utility crossings, according to Kelly High, director of Dallas Trinity Watershed Management.

"We're pretty comfortable that we know where most of those lines are," he said. "It's just determining in more detail exactly where they are; what's their exact depth, so we can figure out how to engineer them."

The city estimates there are some 150 fiber optic cables, petroleum, jet fuel, natural gas and water pipelines running through or under the levees, and they can destabilize the levees if water seeps in along them.

Last year, a leaking water line caused a chunk of the east levee to slide near Interstate 35E.

So as part of these the repairs, the city is adding reinforcement where some of these utilities cross through the levees.

A shallow natural gas line just inches from the surface now has a concrete top protecting it.

"We want to make sure they are protected and that we don't damage them and create a bigger problem," High said.

The city will spend up to $150 million for all the repairs. In the months ahead, Dallas will develop a plan to seal or protect all the crossings — and look for the Corps' approval.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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