Why is Dallas keeping secrets about the Trinity’s whitewater feature?

photo by Rachel Stone
photo by Rachel Stone

The Dallas City Council this week learned that the 5-year-old engineering disaster known as the “standing wave” or “Dallas wave” whitewater feature in the Santa Fe Trestle Trail Park must be removed or repaired.

Even though the kayaking feature in the Trinity River technically has been closed since 2012, it remains easily accessible.

The Army Corps of Engineers in December gave city staff in a deadline of Jan. 20 to take action on the feature, but City Council wasn’t informed of that until the day of the deadline, Wednesday.

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City Councilman Scott Griggs told the Dallas Morning News:

This is typical with the way many Trinity projects operate: They’re boondoggles, then the city staff and attorneys come to us with a gun to our heads and say, ‘You have to make a decision without all the facts.’

He went looking for the facts, and they arrived shrouded in secrecy. Griggs announced today that he received 65 pages of information on the standing wave, and a cover letter that contained this warning:

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Therefore, unless the Attorney General or a court rules that this information may be released, you are required by the Act to keep this information confidential and you are prohibited from releasing this information to the public. Additionally, it is a criminal offense to distribute information considered confidential under the Act. Moreover, it is a violation of the City’s Code of Ethics to release confidential information.

Why are city officials’ discussions about a $4 million public feature being kept secret? Griggs calls it an abuse of attorney-client privilege: “The standing wave engineering project is actually almost entirely a legal project and city staff copies city attorneys on almost all communications claiming attorney-client Privilege to prevent the release of documents to the public about an engineering, not legal project.”

The city is expected to sue the standing wave’s designer, Arlington-based Schrickel, Rollins and Associates.

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