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Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson on Trinity River Corridor Project (Exclusive)

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By Shawn Williams

As always there’s no shortage of news related to the billion dollar ditch…er….I mean Trinity River.  Today Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson was kind enough to answer a few questions related to recent suggestions that she flip flopped her position on the Trinity River Corridor Project.  Johnson discusses why she protected an amendment put forth by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and just how bad some of the bridges spanning the Trinity really are.

Shawn Williams: Congresswoman Johnson has your position changed as it relates to the Trinity River Project over the last few years?

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson: There seems to be some confusion as to where my loyalties are when it comes to the Trinity River Corridor Project.  After Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed New Orleans and claimed the lives of thousands, I requested an evaluation of all levees.  In its evaluation, the Army Corps of Engineers with the new standards determined that the Dallas levees no longer met the 100-year flood stage, the stage that determines whether federally mandated flood insurance will be imposed on residents living behind levies.

SW: So what was the fix for the failing levies?

Rep. Johnson: The City of Dallas Committed $150 million of local funds and worked with the Corps to develop a timeline intended to complete remediation of the levees prior to the mandatory flood insurance being imposed in August 2011.

SW: How has this impacted the Trinity River Project?

Rendering of Trinity River Project, Oak Cliff side of floodway from TrinityRiverCorridor.com

Rep. Johnson: In order to proceed with the Trinity River Corridor Project, Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) will have to be completed by both the Corps and the Federal Highway Administration.  In an effort to make the process more efficient, these two agencies agreed to conduct a joint EIS.  While going through the process, both agencies realized that the age of the levees could make them a possible historical site.

SW: That sounds like more delays.

Rep. Johnson: Determining if the levees are historical would take an additional two years.  This is time the City doesn’t have if it wants to reach its deadline to avoid mandatory flood insurance for Dallas residents.  It’s also an expense I don’t want put on my constituents.

SW: So why have you been accused of shifting your position?

Rep. Johnson: The misinterpretation of the truth happened when I protected an amendment authored by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison exempting the agencies from determining the historical status of the levees (Section 405 of the Supplemental Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2010).

I want to see the levees brought to a 100-year flood stage as quickly as possible, but some have claimed it’s really to proceed with the toll road.  The toll road clearly remains subject to other Federal requirements that will be determined by the Federal Highway Administration.  I am not a part of this discussion at this time.

SW:  So you believe Senator Hutchison’s amendment was necessary.

Rep. Johnson: According to the City of Dallas staff who work closely with this project the positive effects of the amendment go far beyond the levees.  It ensures that future upgrades to the levees, the bridges crossing the Trinity, and other projects related to the Trinity River Corridor Project will not be subjected to additional reviews that could result in added costs.

The Sylvan Bridge is already in such disrepair that it cannot be crossed by school buses, fire trucks or ambulances.  The repair of our critical infrastructure should not be delayed any longer than absolutely necessary.

Categories: Featured, Interviews, National, Politics
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  • JE

    I always thought it was odd that anyone would designate the levees as historic. Levees are meant to protect us from flood and they need to be fixed or replaced. We don’t let our other infrastructure rot or fall into disrepair because it’s quaint.

  • Travis

    Ms. Johnson you are seriously mistaken, and unfortunately, you know it.

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (they are in charge of fixing the levees) doesn’t have to slow down At ALL for historic designation issues. The corps is not subject to the historic protection laws. Kevin Craig, the man in charge of the Trinity project for the Corps, told the Dallas Morning News that historic designation wouldn’t be any problem: “We don’t anticipate [that historic designation] would delay or stop the work required for the 100-year improvements,” he said.

    This “interview” is a fluff piece that tries to cover-up a bad decision made by Ms. Johnson. We’re you afraid Mayer Leppert might not grant your airport concessions unless you went his way? I am disappointed in you.

  • The Hurt

    JE – The Corps is trying to designate the levees as historic because they realized (too late) that the proposed Tollway would adversely impact the integrity of the of the levees. It’s as simple as that.

    Congressmen Johnson says the study will delay the levee enhancements by two years, but the Corps is vehemently denying that claim. I’d like to know why Rep. Johnson has changed her position.

    Is her change of heart all about money? Is it true that she has a financial stake in the concessions contracts at Love Field? And isn’t Mayor Leppert attacking that sole source contract? And hasn’t he staked his political career on implementation of Tollway?

    Mr. Williams – you tossed softballs to Rep. Johnson. Don’t sell us out.

  • http://BettyCulbreath.com Betty Culbreath

    The saddest part of all is Ms. Johnson thinks her constituents don’t know any better.Kay B. is doing this to help developers. If Dallas floods West Dallas will be gone,Parkland and the Medicial District gone.The Trinity river was moved and no one can predict what will happen if water is forced to move,it could rip the old river open.I hope for God sake the levee is fixed.

  • Anonymous

    What consideration was given to such a road within concrete tunnel box hidden beneath the levies?

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