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Ben Sandifer Fights To Protect Dallas’ Nature So That You Don’t Have To

Robert Wilonsky has a great story in today’s paper that you should take the time to read. It’s about a private citizen named Ben Sandifer who is dealing with the city’s shit — literally. In this case, a city worker drove a massive excavator onto sensitive parkland so that he could take a dump. The excavator got stuck in the mud, and a front-end loader had to go in after it to pull it out. A whole bunch of Norbuck Park, off Buckner Boulevard, got torn up in the process. Sandifer saw it happen. He took video. He asked questions. If it weren’t for him, people who use the park would have wondered why it had been torn up, and the crappy city worker would never have been held accountable. (A city official told Wilonsky Wednesday that he wasn’t sure if the city employee would be punished, which is difficult to understand. Here’s how it should be handled. Supervisor: “Did you drive your excavator into a park so that you could take a shit?” Worker: “Yes.” Supervisor: “You’re fired.”)

Anyway, that’s all a preamble for what I really want to tell you. Hopefully you know about Big Spring and the effort to give it a historic designation. The Dallas City Council is scheduled to vote on the matter April 27.

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Leading Off (4/12/16)

U.S. requests extradition for Brenda Delgado. Now that 33-year-old Brenda Delgado, the woman accused of plotting the murder of the dentist who was dating her ex-boyfriend, has been arrested in Mexico, the U.S. wants her back on American soil to face her charges of capital murder and unlawful flight. If Delgado doesn’t appeal this, it could only be two or three months before she is extradited.

Tent city to be closed by May 4. Last week, the Tent City situation seemed more uncertain, but now the homeless encampment near downtown is set to be closed by May 4. Residents who refuse to move to a shelter or other housing by then will be arrested. Dallas city officials have divided Tent City into five parts, and the first two will be closed next week. After these two have been closed, officials will decide when to close the others.

Mavs secure playoff spot. The Mavs’ 101-92 victory against the Utah Jazz last night put them in the NBA playoffs. Now Dirk and the Mavs can’t finish any lower than seventh in the Western Conference, but I’m always stubbornly hopeful for a 2011 repeat.

Softball-sized hail hits North Texas yesterday. Hail measuring 4.5 inches landed across North Texas yesterday. Wylie was one of the areas to be hardest hit; Wylie ISD cancelled all classes for today due to storm damage. Hopefully these spring storms are on their way out. Good riddance.

Dallas-Fort Worth Earthquake Risk Has Increased 10-Fold

Now that we’ve gotten the fear-inducing headline out of the way, let’s dial things back by noting that even though the United States Geological Survey says that the risk of earthquake damage in North Texas is 10 times greater than it was in 2014, that risk remains only between 2 and 5 percent.

Which, true enough, is the same risk people is some parts of California are facing, according the forecast the USGS has released. But thank your stars that you don’t live in Oklahoma:

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Q&A With an Entomologist: Attack of the Mosquito Hawks!

They are everywhere in North Texas. Are they here to suck your blood? Do they mean us harm? What’s the deal with mosquito hawks? I called an entomologist to find out. Mike Merchant is a professor and extension urban entomologist with Texas A&M. He lives here. He knows a thing or two about bugs, and he runs a bug blog that you might enjoy. Here’s the deal:

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Leading Off (3/11/16)

Elephants Arrive in Dallas. Just 17 pachyderms will be coming to America from Swaziland. Dallas Zoo officials revealed that one of the original 18 died in December of an acute gastrointestinal condition. The death means that only five of the animals, which got to North Texas a little after midnight this morning, will stay in Dallas while the others are headed to Omaha, Nebraska, or Wichita, Kansas.

Trinity East Dispute in Court Today. Lawyers for Dallas will argue that the lawsuit filed by the energy company should be tossed because the city has immunity from the suit. For its part, Trinity East charges the city with breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud in denying the company access to land near the Elm Fork Golf Course for which it had hoped to obtain gas leases.

Captain America Robs Beauty Store. Plano Police say a man in a superhero sweatshirt — and his partner in an unimaginative black hoodie — may be connected to the burglaries of several ULTA cosmetics stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Dallas Police to Investigate Racist Facebook Post. Lt. Thomas Glover said the Black Police Association asked the DPD  to investigate after at least two officers made comments indicating their support of the posting of a picture reportedly snapped at an office party in Russia.

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Leading Off (3/10/16)

Plano lawyer to take on Sandbranch case pro bono. Sandbranch is a tiny community in far southern Dallas County, and its residents don’t have clean water. They haven’t for many years. Plano oil lawyer Mark McPherson wants to change that, and he’s taking this case on for free. McPherson learned about Sandbranch’s plight when he was part of a team that delivered water coolers there recently. His goal is to “provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sandbranch community.”

East Oak cliff death being investigated as homicide. A 62-year-old man, Allen Davis, was found dead on Tuesday in east Oak Cliff in the property where he lived, near Beckley-Saner Park. This follows another possible homicide that occurred recently in the same area. Both investigations are pending.

More violence at Tent City. The large homeless encampment near downtown, known as Tent City, saw yet another violent incident Tuesday night. Nikkie Perkins and Anthony Pierre were accused of assaulting three people whom they thought stole belongings from their tent. Apparently Pierre was armed with a hatchet. There was a fatal stabbing at Tent City last month, as well as another murder in January. Plans for the city to shut it down are underway, with a goal of May 4.

Attempted robbery in old east dallas. Raymond Jimenez was walking his dog in Old East Dallas when two men in a Jeep attempted to steal his cell phone. Jimenez didn’t let go of the phone, but the men eventually did. Aside from a few scrapes and bruises from being dragged, Jimenez, his phone, and his dog are fine.

Cowboys’ Brandon Carr Gives $100,000 to Flint

Says the Guardian, the Dallas Cowboys cornerback is making the donation to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, in response to the ongoing water crisis there:

The Community Foundation of Greater Flint says Carr is donating $100,000 to create the Carr Cares Fund for Flint. He’s also donating $10,000 to help with replacing pipes and plumbing. The water crisis has been linked to a wide variety of health problems after the city started drawing its water from a local river to cut costs. Many residents now bathe, cook and drink with bottled water straining household budgets in a town that has already been hit hard economically.

“I am especially concerned about the children of Flint who now, because of lead poisoning, face tremendous adversity for the remainder of their lives,” Carr said in a statement.

On a related note, “said in a statement” is one of the funniest phrasings in all of journal-ese.

Anyway, good for Carr.

We Can All Agree Gas Drilling Under Lewisville Lake Is a Bad Idea, Yes?

Dallas Water Utilities has joined the town of Highland Village and a slew of environmental groups in protesting the potential sale of a gas lease that would allow drilling near and underneath Lewisville Lake. The cities of Lewisville and Denton are also considering making their own formal protests.

The Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t officially oppose the lease, which is set to be auctioned off by the federal Bureau of Land Management on April 20. But, DMN reports:

A 2013 presentation by corps engineer Anita Branch brought up human-induced earthquakes, dangers of fracking fluid migrating through underground faults and the possibility of water contamination. She noted that gas drilling wasn’t factored into the design of the dams.

Branch’s presentation at a professional conference recommended extensive geological testing in drilling areas and close monitoring. The PowerPoint presentation said the proposals weren’t officially endorsed by the corps.

The corp has started researching gas drilling and dams but results haven’t been completed. There little certainty about what – if any – risks are posed by gas drilling near dams or levees.

So it looks like there’s a consensus that the risk posed to Lewisville Lake, a major source of drinking water in North Texas, isn’t worth what would be gained by permitting the drilling.

Let’s hope the BLM comes around to seeing it the same way.

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Leading Off (2/11/16)

Third Zika virus case confirmed in Dallas. This was announced yesterday. The sample in this case was tested and confirmed positive by a local laboratory. The hope is that local testing for the Zika virus will help contain the disease. The Dallas woman who was confirmed to have Zika had shown symptoms after coming home from Honduras, where the outbreak is far worse. Four other Dallas County residents have had potential symptoms of Zika, and the CDC is currently testing samples. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Health experts say the major Zika outbreak in South America is not likely to happen in the U.S. but that Texas is one of the states more susceptible to minor Zika outbreaks because we’re, uh, well-acquainted with mosquitoes. Time to stock up on insect repellent.

Grass fire near Celina and McKinney destroys 50 Acres. Yesterday a grass fire was responsible for burning 50 acres of land north near the two Dallas suburbs. Several fire departments responded to the incident, which might have threatened a few homes. The fire was put out, and no injuries were sustained. The cause of the fire is not known yet.

Woman with cognitive impairment missing in Plano. 75-year-old Annamarie Doyle has been missing since yesterday afternoon. Because she has a cognitive impairment, her safety could be in jeopardy. Police say she was last seen driving a 2003 gold Jeep Liberty in Plano.

Why the Trinity River Project Remains Dallas’ Impossible Dream

If you haven’t been following the ongoing fiasco surrounding the Dallas Wave very closely, I don’t blame you. It has been particularly depressing and infuriating. Last week, the city council found out that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threatened to shut off the city’s water supply if the city didn’t take immediate action to fix the white water feature that opened five years ago and was then swiftly closed because it was deemed too hazardous.

Today, Jim Schutze reports that some people inside city hall hoped to get Congress to exempt the river from a federal law regarding waterway navigation in order to get around the corps’ objections to the broken white water feature. You may remember that the city already managed to persuade Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson to slip a measure into a piece of federal legislation that exempts the stretch of the Trinity near downtown from all sorts of federal environmental oversight.

There are two pretty rich ironies floating around this latest scuttlebutt over the Dallas Wave.

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Former Trinity River Project Manager: ‘I Felt Like I Was Part of a Giant Con’

Eric Nicholson has an important piece over on the Dallas Observer today about Bryan Kilburn, the man who used to be in charge of managing the Great Trinity Forest for the City of Dallas. Long story short, Kilburn became a Senior Project Manager with the City of Dallas after earning a degree in forestry from Stephen F. Austin university. He was instrumental in putting together the city’s forest management plan, which laid out a 100-year program for preserving and enhancing the ecological asset that is the Great Trinity Forest. He thought he was doing good work.

However, in light of the many recent instances of contractors draining ponds, cutting down trees, and otherwise unleashing havoc on the forest, Kilburn now says he believes that he was a cog in a “giant con” that is the Trinity River Project. Here’s what he posted on Philip Kingston’s Facebook page:

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Leading Off: New Year’s Day 2016

First Things First.  Are you still drunk?

Secondly, How’s Your Head? Our readers recommend coconut water.

Open-Carry Is Texas Law. Don’t be freaked out if the guy behind you at the supermarket has a gun on his hip. Or maybe be freaked out, but don’t call the cops on him because, as of today, he’s likely within his rights.

Cotton Bowl Played at JerryWorld. Alabama and Michigan State faced off for the chance to play in the college football national title game on January 11. The Crimson Tide rolled to a 38-0 victory.

First Woman Elected to Dallas City Council Dies at 93. RIP, Calvert Keoun Collins.

Annual Weather Forecast. Old Farmer’s Almanac says to expect a year drier and warmer than normal.

I’m Asleep Right Now. And you’re not reading this anyway. Best of luck in the arbitrarily segmented 366-day period to come.

The City of Dallas Continues To Bulldoze the Trinity Forest

The D Magazine world headquarters are closed this week. I should be unplugged, resting, recharging. And yet there I was this morning at Top Golf, reading, between turns, this important, well-reported, balanced story by the Observer’s Eric Nicholson (don’t feel too bad for me). I’m afraid there are too many people this week similarly unplugged, people who will miss this story, city officials who will therefore not feel the appropriate heat on their heels.

The short version: Trinity Watershed Management continues to be the worst city department in Dallas. Trees continue to be bulldozed. The forest continues to be degraded. And no one is held accountable. Every couple of months, we hear another story like the one Nicholson brings us today. And the city responds: “A contractor screwed up. We’ve got the problem corrected. It won’t happen again.”

It has happened too many times. No one ever gets fired. All the mismanagement, it all ultimately falls at the feet of City Manager A.C. Gonzalez. It’s time for change.

Morning News Responds to Dam Questions

On Wednesday, Eric put up a post that asked several questions about the DMN’s recent story on the Lewisville Dam. Doug Swanson was the editor of that story. He has sent along responses to each of Eric’s questions. I am going to repost each of those questions, along with Swanson’s responses, which I’ve indented. Swanson says that anyone with further questions is welcome to contact him at [email protected]

1. The only named Army Corps person in the story who supports its thesis — basically, that we’re all gonna die in a 65-foot wall of water if we don’t do something pronto — is a former employee. Did any current employees, even on deep background, support this theory?

SWANSON: It’s true that the person quoted is identified as a former Corps employee. However, when the story was first being reported, some months back, he was the dam safety program manager for the Corps district, as the story says. In fact, he’s wearing a shirt with a Corps logo in the video posted on the DMN website. He left the Corps, under favorable circumstances, to work in the private sector.

He is just one of numerous Corps employees who confirmed the 65-foot wall of water figure. The Corps figure was not based on “theory.” It was based on a host of inundation studies performed by the Corps and by consultants working for the Corps.

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New Evidence Human Activity Has Caused North Texas Quakes

The Morning News reports on new information coming out of the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco:

Evidence that human activity is behind the Dallas quakes includes a new analysis showing that the faults beneath Dallas and Fort Worth had been dormant for hundreds of millions of years until 2008, the year felt earthquakes first began rumbling through the area.

Oil and gas companies have argued the opposite: that the faults in North Texas have moved throughout geologic time and that the current earthquakes are natural.

Earlier this week, SMU seismologist Beatrice Magnani compared North Texas faults with those known to have produced earthquakes over geologic time. Active faults have visible ruptures, while the small faults that the SMU team has mapped in Azle and Venus have barely perceptible ones.

Unlike historically active faults, those in North Texas also do not extend into the uppermost layers of sediment.  Faults that have been active over hundreds of millions of years typically disturb the uppermost layers of the Earth’s crust, said Magnani.

“Those faults are dead, and they have just been rejuvenated. That is the most reasonable conclusion,” said Magnani, referring to the faults beneath North Texas.

SMU seismologist Heather DeShon suggests that the Texas Railroad Commission begin collecting daily injection volumes and pressure from operators of natural gas drilling. Without that data, it’s difficult to determine the limits under which wastewater disposal wells might be operated safely, without reawakening faults.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Unless the industry refuses to accept that it might have anything at all to do with the sudden uptick in seismic activity.