DALLAS -- Remember the Standing Wave? Well, the $4 million dangerous boondoggle is still not fixed or removed.
After more than a year of promises to make it right, the City is again asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for what amounts to a regulatory stay of execution.
In a 10-page letter dated February 3, City Attorney Larry Casto asked the corps to remove the “upstream navigability requirements.” If the corps were willing to do so – which if the corps’ past statements are any indicator is highly unlikely to happen-- then the City could leave it as-is.
“To accommodate an unrealistic dream of navigability and the wishes of a handful, the City will lose the millions it invested and spend millions to cause its removal,” Casto wrote.
Casto’s letter says the estimates to fix or remove Standing Wave range from $2 to $8 million.
His letter proposes the City would instead install boat ramps that would allow boaters and kayakers to move their crafts overland around the Standing Wave. Other safety features would include installing signage warning novice boaters.
Council members are set to be briefed in a closed session on the Standing Wave on Wednesday.
More than a year ago, the corps ordered the City to come up with a detailed plan to remove it or fix it in order to comply with the permit the City got to build it. It was clear then the corps had grown impatient with the City’s slow-going approach.
It’s also been a year since the Dallas City Council voted to explore options to fix it.
“We were told we would have a plan in place by summer,” said Councilman Philip Kingston. “Then we were told August. Then we were told September, then we were told November and then we were told January, and now we’re in the middle of February or into February. They need to tear this thing out.”
Kingston is not happy about Casto’s letter.
“It was not authorized by the council,” he said.
He says he’s spoken with Casto and was told that the letter was mainly intended to better position the city in a potential lawsuit against the company that built the Standing Wave. But he is frustrated by the continued delays.
“It blocks people's ability to enjoy the river. Seriously this time of the year is high season for the river and people should be getting in all the way up at California Crossing and taking a long paddle all the way down to the Audubon Center,” Kingston said.
Kingston says he’s been told by city staffers that there was a much cheaper removal option than what’s described in Casto’s letter. That option would involve dragging the structure down river until it doesn’t impede the river’s flow.
Charles Allen, owner of Trinity River Expeditions, was angered by what he read in the letter.
“I find it offensive that our city staff that are not elected but paid at taxpayer expense are working so hard to try to shut down recreational and commercial activities that are homegrown in the city of Dallas,” he said. “Navigation is a right that we all have….and the City wants to take away our rights to cover up a mistake.”
Allen says the Standing Wave not only negatively affects humans using the river, but also the aquatic life that lives in the river.
Concerns about the safety of the whitewater rapids started from the moment it opened in May 2011 to much fanfare.
It was composed of two parts: A whitewater rapids feature and a bypass channel meant for kayakers and boaters who wanted a calmer, relaxing river-going experience.
The rapids were much more turbulent than expected, and the bypass was anything but safe or calm. The entire course was deemed unsafe for kayakers and boaters. It was closed within months.
Last January, then City Manager A.C. Gonzalaz acknowledged that it had been a costly mistake, saying that the permit contained language “which makes that particular structure almost impossible to get right.”
“There was no consideration to the people who have been boating it for years and for a lifetime in my case,” Allen said. “This problem is a human-constructed, human-created problem and humans need to fix it.”
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