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Law Man Walking: Nature Treks With Bill Holston

Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air

— Bruce Springsteen, The River

Last Saturday morning was a beautiful, cold morning. Ben Sandifer and I decided to head down to the Trinity to see if there was dry land. I had been out of town the previous weekend, hiking in New Mexico’s Organ Mountains, so I was happy to hike with Ben again. There is something about our easy companionship that makes a walk in the woods even better. We barely need conversation to pick our way down a trail or decide when to take a break, to be quiet, slow down or speed up. I like the effortlessness of walking with a steady, familiar companion, especially one as knowledgeable and amiable as Ben. My buddy Scott usually is with us, and Scott and I have been hiking together for about 35 years.

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Why All the Secrecy About the Dallas Wave?

Jim Schutze has posted a humdinger of an account of what went down in a Dallas City Council emergency executive session on Wednesday, when city staff surprised the council with the news that they had only hours to commit to spending $3 million-$5 million to fix the dangerous Dallas Wave whitewater feature on the Trinity River.

If the city didn’t pony up, they were told, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could shut down the entire drinking water system. Or, as Schutze puts it:

All of a sudden — bang! out of nowhere! — the lawyers lock the council up where the taxpayers can’t see them, shove a letter from the Corps in their faces and tell them if the council doesn’t agree to spend millions more on this already atrociously over-budget fiasco by 5 p.m. that day, the Corps is threatening to yank federal permits that could effectively shut down the city’s water supply.

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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.

Questions for the DMN on that Lewisville Dam Story

Finally got to the big dam story everyone is talking about. Good read! Lotsa drama. You can almost hear the scary music playing in the background, foretelling much damage and destruction. Highly enjoyed reading it.

Well, I enjoyed it the first time. The second time I looked it through, a few questions started to form. I wanted some supporting evidence and context that I suspect was not included because it would interrupt the excellent #longform #narrative. Especially after some light Googling. Those questions:

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Leading Off (12/10/15)

Lawsuit to remove Susan Hawk will move forward. Ellis County’s county and district attorney, Patrick Wilson, will continue to pursue the suit to remove Dallas DA Susan Hawk. Instead of deciding to drop the case, Wilson says he will file paperwork this week asking a judge to serve Hawk with the lawsuit. Hawk also said this week that she would like to be re-elected in 2018.

20 million-gallon reservoir in Preston Hollow to be replaced. The 60-year-old Walcrest pump station and 20 million-gallon reservoir at the northeast corner of Walnut Hill and Hillcrest, next to Hillcrest High School, will be replaced by Dallas Water Utilities. It’s a $36 million project that will hopefully be completed in 2019. Until then, expect lane closures and more traffic.

Almost 1,000 immigrant children from Central America will be housed in Rockwall and Ellis counties. This will begin today. A retreat center in Rockwall County will house 300 children, while a church camp in Ellis County will take in 200-500 or more kids, ages 12 to 18. There has been a surge of children housed close to the U.S.-Mexico border, so this will help alleviate that. The children will be staying here from three weeks to two months.

Wonder why Dallas trees are so colorful this fall? You can thank the recent weather trend of chilly nights and warm, sunny days. But this may not last much longer if temperatures dip lower this weekend, so go enjoy it while you can.

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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Radiolab Will Change Your Mind About the Dallas Safari Club Rhino Hunter

Or maybe not. But still.

Listened to this via my podcatcher last weekend but forgot to mention it until now. If you’re not already a regular Radiolab listener, you really should be. But even if you don’t care about fantastically produced storytelling that entertains as it educates about the mysterious ways in which our minds, our bodies, and our surrounding world work, maybe you’ll care that earlier this month the show followed Corey Knowlton, the fellow who bid $350,000 in a Dallas Safari Club auction to shoot a black rhino in Namibia.

I’m not saying I’m now a fan of hunting endangered animals, but hearing from Namibian government officials about how selling permits like these (which are apparently issued only for aged animals that have been killing other rhinos) fund conservation efforts in their country — well, the story is more complicated than the headline.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Nutria, the Furry Menace in Our Dallas Waterways

Question: The other night, we were standing on the Continental Bridge, taking in the glorious river, when we saw something swimming upstream. We were at first concerned it was a dog, but it was moving with such ease, and going underwater and coming back out, that we decided it must be something else. Our final guess is a nutria. What the hell is a nutria? Are there many in Dallas? Will we have more now, and if we were to jump in to try to rescue it, would it kill us? (Sure, all these questions could be answered on Google, but I’d prefer to hear Mr. Bryan’s take.) — David H.

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Scot Miller Provides Today’s Moment of Quiet

We’ve talked about Scot before. The photographer and co-owner of Sun to Moon hosted an opening reception over the weekend for his latest show, titled “Nature in Our Backyard.” I swung by on Saturday and enjoyed seeing some of the prints that we reproduced in our July issue. They look okay online. They look better in the magazine. But the best way to enjoy them is hanging on a wall, in a gallery. If you’re in the Design District in the coming weeks, you might want to stop in. Meantime, Scot has produced another video. Take a deep breath and press play:

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Leading Off (5/29/15): Floods Submerge Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas Under Water. Over night a huge, slow-moving storm dumped heavy rain across DFW, officially making this the wettest May on record in these parts. The previous high mark was 13.66 inches, and we’re likely still not done for the month. Don’t try to drive through flooded roads.

Much more, and other news, after the jump…

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Leading Off (5/22/15)

Denton to Be Fracked Over. The day after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill severely limiting local regulations of oil and natural gas drilling, Vantage Energy notified the city that it would resume its well operations. Denton made national headlines after banning hydraulic fracturing with a vote last November, but the new law undoes that.

It’s West Nile Virus Season. Batches of mosquitoes in Mesquite and Frisco have tested positive for local newscasts’ favorite bogeyman disease. I’m hoping Zac has already put in a call to his inside source on the insects’ summer plans. Developing.

Attempt to Kill Bullet Train Project Fails. A Texas Senate committee voted against a proposal to prohibit the use of state funds to support the effort to build a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Texas Legislature Legislates. Lawmakers in Austin have reached a deal to cut property and business taxes, instituted new regulations on the chemicals that caused the West explosion, and protected religious leaders and institutions from a problem that hasn’t been shown to actually exist.

Jordan Spieth Still Good at Golf. The Dallas PGA Tour pro, who won the Masters tournament earlier this year, sits tied with three others at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the Colonial tournament in Fort Worth.

Wet Weekend Coming. North Texas has already received more rain so far this year than we got in all of 2014. And more and more is on the way.

Should We Really Be Trying to Build a Park in the Trinity?

I was out of town last week so I missed much of the rainfall that has now transformed the Trinity River flood plain into a broad, fast-flowing, messy river. It’s a lovely sight: passing over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on the way into the office and seeing water running from bank to bank underneath the series of bridges that for too much of the year look like exaggerated spans traversing a tiny creek.

There’s something beautiful but also terrifying about the swollen Trinity. Its snarling, brown waters smother trees up to their spindly tops. The floodwaters push out against the long ridges that funnel water past the city. A hundred or so years ago, that water would be lapping up against downtown buildings and sweeping away the foundations of homes.

These occasional floods are good for the city. We certainly need the rain. But perhaps as important is the reminder they offer that Dallas exists within a particular natural environment, and that nature isn’t always friendly.

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Leading Off (5/8/15)

Apocalypse Now? Thursday night and early Friday morning brought North Texas tornadoes and flooding, tens of thousands without power, a train derailment that sent two locomotives into a creek, a gas well fire possibly caused by a lightning strike, and the biggest earthquake these parts have ever seen.

FBI Sent Warning About Gunman. Just hours before Sunday’s attack outside an anti-Muslim cartoon contest, the feds alerted Garland cops that Elton Simpson might show up, though the local police spokesman says officers on the scene “had no idea, no information” that Simpson and his accomplice were on their way.

Saturday Is Election Day. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Precinct locations found here. Vote if you haven’t already. Peter already did a fine job of guilting you into it.

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