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Making Dallas Even Better

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.

How Much Will It Cost Dallas To Fix the Lewisville Dam?

UPDATE (4:40 pm) I’ve put Councilman Philip Kingston’s response at the bottom of this post. Original item:

As Zac mentioned in Leading Off, Sunday’s Morning News brought us an important story about the Lewisville Dam, which the Army Corps of Engineers lists as the eighth-most-hazardous in the country. You really should read the story, especially if you live downstream of Lewisville Lake. I’ve got a couple of wonky observations about the authorship and presentation of the story, and then I’d like to get Councilman Philip Kingston involved, because he and I had a back-and-forth on Twitter.

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Study: Barnett Shale Releases 90% More Methane Than EPA Estimates

Inside Climate News reports on the peer-reviewed study that indicates that 90 percent more methane than the government had thought is escaping into the atmosphere as a result of natural-gas drilling operations in the the Barnett Shale. The findings were released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Understanding the scope of methane leaks is crucial, because the answer will determine whether the ongoing shift from coal to natural gas-fired electricity creates a net benefit for climate change. Although gas power plants emit much less carbon dioxide than coal plants do, even small leaks of methane—the main component of natural gas—could undermine that advantage.

Methane is 86 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas on 20-year timescales, and 34 times more powerful on 100-year timescales.

Also worth noting is that just “2 percent of the oil and gas facilities in the Barnett released 50 percent of the methane.” So some operators need to get their act together more than others.

Hope You Like Rain, Dallas

El Niño, climate conditions spurred on by warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, is likely to keep us rain-heavy for the next few months:

Rick Mitchell, a meteorologist at KXAS-TV (NBC5) said the southern jet stream has been active for some weeks now, and “will stay active, and active from California through the southern tier of the U.S., continuing to impact all of Texas and the southern third of the nation.”

Following the heavy rains in April and May, “I feel like El Niño has been fairly well-behaved,” Mitchell said.

“We felt there would be a relaxation of rain over the summer, but I don’t think anyone thought it would dry up the way it did,” he said. “And when the spigot turned on again, it really did, and I think that trend should continue through the rest of fall and into the winter.

On the plus side, the Texas drought is over, again:

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How We Can Still Save the Half-Built Trinity River Project

That photo above is a Google maps shot of a house that sits on the corner of Marlborough Ave. and Davis St. in Oak Cliff. It has more or less looked like that for the better part of five years. The house is the ultimate DIY project. As Rachel Stone reported in the Oak Cliff Advocate earlier this year, Ricardo Torres bought the house in 2008 and set about building his dream home. Torres is a crafty guy. He started from scratch with a plan for a two story home. Then he realized that if he added a third story, he could have a downtown view. You know what would also be cool? A game room. So he tacked on one of those, and the house grew like a drawing in a Dr. Seuss book.

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What Happened to Citizen Oversight of the Trinity River Project?

After reading late last week about Mayor Rawlings’ plan to make more plans for the city’s largest park (without the involvement of the Parks Department or the citizens of Dallas), I thought it was time to check in on the status of the Trinity Citizens’ Oversight Committee. As you may recall, the Trinity Dream Team’s leader, Larry Beasly, stated their proposal needed “public input and confirmation,” and that the design process “needs a conscience that is ‘of the people.'”

Their “suggestion (was) a carefully arranged monitoring of implementation, (then) and on an ongoing basis into the distant future, but an oversight panel of independent professional and citizen monitors who can make sure the concept does not get distorted through the detailed design process.” Peter Simek reported Beasly as stating that the multi-disciplinary team of experts should actually report to the citizens group. In that same piece, Council Member Lee Kleinman was quoted as stating his desire for more public input. The Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects also publicly endorsed such an approach, stating they “strongly advocat(e) for an oversight body comprised of Dream Team members, local design organizations (including AIA Dallas) and private citizens to ensure that the vision of the Dream Team is faithfully reflected in the design and execution of a Great Trinity Park Parkway.”

So where do we stand on the formation of such an independent oversight body?

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Leading Off (9/10/15)

New and Improved LBJ Has Instruction Manual. Get ready for the new LBJ Freeway to be unveiled today. However, only parts of it are still free. There´s even an online instruction manual dedicated to answering all your inevitable questions. In short, part of LBJ is free, and the other part contains six toll lanes below. Prices can range from 10 cents per mile to 75 cents per mile depending on traffic. It will no doubt take drivers a few test runs to decipher the most efficient routes, but time will soon tell if the years of maddening construction were worth it.

Infant hit by car in north Oak cliff. Yesterday, a 4-month-old boy was left critically injured when a car hit him. He was with his 18-year-old mother in a parking lot by North Bishop Avenue. A friend who came to pick them up accidentally struck the boy with her car when she pressed the accelerator too hard and drove onto the sidewalk, where the boy was. He is now at Children´s Medical Center.

D/FW record rainfall thanks to hurricane linda. Yesterday´s rainfall exceeded the National Weather Service´s expectations when it grew to approximately 2 inches by the end of the day. The previous record was about 1 inch in 1913. This was the first real rainfall in weeks and even created flooding conditions for the first time since we needed an ark back in the spring. We have Hurricane Linda to thank for this break in the usual dry spell that is September. Still, Dallas is way ahead of our typical yearly rain rate with 38.83 inches of rain.

Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick: Texas Now Leading U.S. Again in Some Oil and Gas Regs

Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick won’t talk yet about a preliminary report to the commission ruling out a link between earthquakes near Azle and a disposal well operated by XTO Energy—findings that contradicted an earlier study by scientists at SMU, which did find a connection. But during an appearance in Dallas yesterday, Craddick said the commission, which regulates the Texas oil and gas industry, is working with its recently hired staff seismologist to investigate seismic activity and to hold “conversations” with concerned communities.

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Leading Off (8/20/15)

New Parkland Hospital is Open Today. Bright and early at 6am, the Rees-Jones Trauma Center, Emergency Department, Urgent Care Emergency Department and Labor & Delivery services in the new Parkland Memorial Hospital opened at the new location, 5200 Harry Hines Blvd. Other sections of the new hospital, including intensive care units and a burn center, will gain operation over a three-day period. All inpatient services will be transferred by Saturday’s end. I, for one, would not wish to be a patient during this transition. Chaos. But the new 2.1 million-square-foot facility does look pretty.

Burn Bans Spread Across DFW like wildfire. Denton and Tarrant counties have already set up burn bans, and Dallas County will likely do so next Tuesday, which would be in effect for 90 days. Funny how the burn bans are coming on the heels of yesterday’s rain, the first since July 8. And to think, not long ago we were all hoping the downpours would desist.

Cannabis-based Smoothies Coming to a Suburb Near You. I mean, Frisco. Who would have thought? As it turns out, the AmeriCanna Cafe, a cannabis-based smoothie shop, is indeed set to open in Frisco within the year. If the hair starts to stand up on the back of your neck while reading this, don’t worry. It’s perfectly legal. Apparently, the ingredients are derived from hemp seeds, while are allowed for consumption in the U.S. Smoothies will have at most only negligible traces of THC, so you will not need to worry about failing a drug test (at least not because of this smoothie).

D/FW Airport’s ‘Welcome Mat’ for Uber and Lyft

The recent news that Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is finally going to stop prohibiting arriving passengers from using Uber & Lyft was greeted with great fanfare by long-suffering victims of the taxicab cartel. As promised by D/FW Airport CEO Sean Donohue earlier this year, the new procedure was going to be simple: “1. book your ride; 2. take your ride.” As long as the driver held a sticker issued by either Dallas or Fort Worth (the two cities that own and theoretically control the $7.5 billion nation-state), he or she would be good to go.

Although I hoped it was really this simple, knowing the time-honored North Texas tradition of protecting incumbent transportation monopolists (Exhibit A: Wright Amendment, Exhibit B: City of Dallas’ vice cops issuing questionable citations to Uber drivers, Exhibit C: City Manager A.C. Gonzalez’ secret effort to kill Uber, Exhibit D: City of Dallas attempting to kick Delta out of Love Field), I was a bit skeptical.

Sure enough, a closer look reveals the “new procedure” is anything but simple.

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Leading Off (8/7/15)

Heat Wave. The official high temperature at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reached 102 on Thursday, and the forecast calls for nothing but triple digits ahead. It’s so hot that water mains broke in North Oak Cliff, as ground deprived of moisture shifted and ruptured the pipes. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the state’s power grid, projects that we could set another all-time peak demand record during the next few days, after having just set records on both Wednesday and again Thursday that topped the god-awful summer of 2011.

Arlington Cops Kill Burglar. The man reportedly drove his Jeep into the showroom of a car dealership at about 1 a.m. today. When officers arrived on the scene, there was an altercation, and the suspect was shot.

Police Issue Alert For Missing Man and Son. Vincent Jackson, 26, and his 6-year-old son Vincent Jr. haven’t been seen since leaving their Southeast Dallas home nearly two weeks ago.

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