Saturday, October 6, 2007

Letter to Mayor Leppert on endangerment to Dallas's Drinking Water by proposed FM2499

Dear Mr. Leppert:

I am writing this letter to bring to your attention a matter of some grave concern. Just this week, I contacted the Dallas Water Department to inquire about the extent of their knowledge and participation in matters pertaining to a major Dallas drinking water source. I foolishly presumed that the Water Department would be fully informed of activities that might potentially pollute this source. It came to my attention in 2003 that despite the events of 9/11, and the nation’s terrorist concerns, there was very little inter-agency communication on matters that could potentially threaten resources and facilities of our local Cities. I live in Highland Village, which is situated at the southern and western boundary of Lake Lewisville. This community has had an ongoing battle with regard to the proposed alignment of Section 4 of FM 2499, a 4 - 6 lane thoroughfare that Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot) plans to run through our 96 percent owner-occupied residential community. Members of our community contacted the City of Dallas at that time, to ask them about their participation in the selection process for the alignment for this road, since Alignment 3, (there were originally 10) through Highland Village, was the only easement that would take this roadway over Lake Lewisville. We assumed the City would be involved since Dallas owns the water rights. They were not! With the huge outcry at the Public Hearings and considerable media coverage at that time, we presumed Dallas would get involved, especially as TxDot went ahead and selected Alternative 3 over other less controversial and less expensive routes for this road. They apparently did not!

This particular alignment, through our unique and massively “hilly” neighborhoods, through wetlands and over the western boundary of Lake Lewisville is very controversial! It is the most disruptive and THE MOST EXPENSIVE of all options which were available. The environmental threat from this road is huge - to human and wildlife (Lake Lewisville already has a high MTBE content according to EPA reports). Yet it somehow ‘squeaked’ inside the NEPA guidelines and was ‘shoehorned’ under the radar, to fit the need to move this project along. Leadership of Copper Canyon – the neighboring community which was the site for several of the other alternatives, fought this roadway from the very beginning. Leadership of Highland Village did not! That is what is amounted to. Despite the huge citizen opposition, despite being elevated above grade (up to 15 ft. in places), and less than 10 feet from some homes; despite the necessity to build bridges over emergent wetlands along the western boundary of Lake Lewisville – and potential threat to this drinking water source, the project received an assessment of "no significant impact" to the surrounding community, in late 2005. No formal Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was ever done. The conditions for the lesser study were also less than ideal. No ground assessment was ever done for the emergent wetlands evaluation portion, and all areas of promised mitigation to the community (for what they were worth) cannot be fulfilled because the City of Highland Village does not have authority over this State highway. And yet apparently, through all this, the City of Dallas stayed out of this process.

TxDot is preparing to put this construction project out to bids next month. Highland Village families continue to fight the project and have recently been talking to an environmental attorney, to seek advice on how we should move forward at this time. We had hoped to stop the process before now, or at a minimum force TxDot to complete a proper Environmental Impact Study (EIS). This especially in light of the recent USC Medical study published earlier this year in Lancet, implicating automobile pollution as a major source of loss of lung function in children, and more recently the reports about breast cancer from the same source. This agency appears to be determined to push forward with this project however, even with their recent acknowledgement of a $290 million deficit in state funds. We are therefore trying to get as many people involved as possible, in asking the right questions, so that they might reconsider the repercussions of their choices. I called the Dallas Water Department about 11 days ago to discuss this matter, and was instructed that Jodi Puckett, the Director, was out of the office. Earlier this week I received a call from Rick Galceron(sp?) in Ms. Pucket’s stead. Mr. Galceron informed me that he was unaware of any participation or issues with regard to this or any other proposed highway crossing of Lake Lewisville. He told me he would make some calls to find out what he could, and then get back to me. I have heard no more to date, and therefore feel I should bring this matter to you Mr. Leppert, as the newly appointed Mayor of the City of Dallas. I felt you would wish to be informed of this and other matters of such importance. I realize I am a simple “lay-person” in this area, but I find the lack of apparent concern and cooperation in this matter to disturbing to the point of outrageous. We are after all talking about a potential threat to one of the City of Dallas’ largest sources of potable water. A lack of inter-agency co-operation regarding a project of this scale, which has the potential of putting massive amounts of toxins into that source, is absurd. Mistakes are made and accidents happen. That no cooperation is believed necessary is shocking! Whatever happened to the requirements for stepped up security on such resources? Given the recent concerns not that long ago following the spill at Lake Tawakoni, one would have thought there would be more involvement and monitoring of these matters. I have to wonder whether the citizens of Dallas are aware of how little oversight is being given to their drinking water source. I would appreciate hearing from you at you earliest convenience in response to my concerns.


Susie Venable

Concerned Parent/Citizen/Homeowner/Taxpayer
of Highland Village, Texas

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