Flooding

Flooding of several dammed areas in Rockwall, such as here in Lake Rockwall Estates last February, could be significantly mitigated by improvements to the county's aged dams.

The Rockwall County Commissioners Court on Tuesday returned to the issue of the county’s multiple flood prevention sites (dams and water retention areas originally constructed by the federal government) and their apparent conflict with expanding subdivisions throughout the county.

Owen Cantrell, District Technician for the Kaufman - Van Zandt - Rockwall Soil and Water Conservation District, told the court that flood prevention sites across the state, including 28 in Rockwall County, are in dire need of repair or removal.

“Most of these sites were originally built in 1955,” Cantrell said. “They were originally considered ‘low hazard structures’ and were only meant to meet the requirements of a 1,000-year flood. With all the development and aging of the dams, they have been put on the ‘high hazard’ list.”

Cantrell added that the hazard class has nothing to do with the dams’ conditions, but rather is an indicator of what hazards lie downstream. In other words, if the dams were to breach, the possible destruction of property, roads and loss of life could be significant.

Cantrell also said that the county’s participation in a recent state grant program, passed by Governor Greg Abbott, could help repair the existing damage to Rockwall County’s flood prevention dams, as could participation in a similar federal program.

“To do that, the dams would need to be upgraded or rehabbed,” Cantrell said. “Rehabbing is a federally-funded program.”

According to Cantrell, areas especially in need of these repairs include dams in the Cedar Creek Watershed, the laterals of the Upper East Fork, and to a lesser extent, Rockwall Lake, Rainbow Lake and Wallace Lake.

Cantrell strongly recommended that the county opt to participate in the state funding program for dam improvements rather than the federal program, saying that involvement in a federal grant system would come with many more “strings attached.”

“The only thing local governments have to do is actually pay for a portion of the construction itself,” Cantrell said, later adding that the county would be responsible for five percent of that cost.

Cantrell also said that all but one of the dams needing repairs are located inside Rockwall city limits, and that the Soil and Water Conservation District has already met with city officials who expressed an interest in making sure the dams are improved as needed.

Precinct 4 Commissioner David Magness asked Cantrell to further explain the “silting in” of the waterways and lakes in question, which Cantrell explained is the gradual accumulation of sediment at the lake’s bottom surfaces. Although sediment capture was an intended purpose of the lakes at their original construction, it does affect their overall lifespan and usefulness.

“The ‘silting in’ doesn’t really affect your flood capacity, because your flood capacity is the difference in elevation between the top of the waterline and the top of the spillway,” Cantrell explained. “Most of these improvement grant systems don’t remove silt, but the way they increase the life expectancy of these dams and lakes is by raising elevations.”

The court ultimately decided to prepare an application for participation in the state grant system, as well as to explore the possibility of some federal contribution to the rehabilitation and repair of Rockwall County’s dilapidated dams.

The Commissioners also approved a proclamation, at the request of Mark Kipphut, observing the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and honoring Vietnam veterans.

Kipphut, commander of the Rockwall Terry Fisher American Legion Post 117, said that the post proudly joins the court in commemorating veterans of the war.

“In doing so, we honor our veterans, including the fallen, who served their nation honorably and with distinction,” Kipphut said. “On behalf of our nation, thank you for your service.”

Kipphut went on to say that the Vietnam War was “America’s long war.”

“It was a divisive conflict, and would test the very core of America,” Kipphut said. “Vietnam was our first televised war, which would challenge our purpose and commitment.. Too often we allowed single images and events to incorrectly define the war while, across Southeast Asia, American forces endured hardships and harsh conditions… while fighting to protect the ideals we hold so dearly as Americans.”

58,220 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War, including Rockwall natives David Glasscock, Charlie Stephenson and Harry Herndon.

Kipphut also specifically recognized Vietnam War veterans and Rockwall County Commissioners Lee Gilbert and Cliff Sevier.