Summer '09

From the President

By David G. Barber

Often what you find on the internet is very interesting. Sometimes it can be quite surprising. If you look at the ACS Index pages for Texas on our web site, you will find one for the Trinity River dated 1981. Looking at it, shows that the river runs 501 miles on a twisty course from the Dallas Fort Worth area to Galveston Bay.

In the early 1900’s, the federal government began a program to improve the river with 37 locks and dams. The locks were 50 feet wide by 140 feet long. The dams were of the moveable wicket type. The project was stopped by World War I after 7 locks and dams were built and made operable. Some of these can be found on Google Earth.

In the 1960’s, a new project was planned on a larger scale with 84’ x 600’ locks. The index page indicates that one lock was begun at Wallisville, TX at the downstream end, but was stopped by court order in 1981 at about 72% complete due to environmental concerns. A view of the site a few years ago on TerraServer showed an incomplete lock with sector gates sitting on the east wall. The entire site was surrounded by spoil piles and water. You can still see this 1995 view on TerraServer USA.

Imagine my surprise, when I happened to look at the same site on Google Earth and found a complete lock and nearby dam with buildings and parking lots with cars. A Google search on “Wallisville Dam”, leads to a Galveston District, Corps of Engineers web page describing the project and area history. The original project, which would have created a large lake in the wetlands upstream was transformed after dismissal of the court order into a salt water intrusion and tidal surge barrier. The lock also now serves as a harbor of refuge from gulf hurricanes. I will be interested to learn how this lock served during Hurricane Ike last year. What I do know is that the Corps of Engineers’ Wallisville branch office, located at the lock, was in operation immediately after the storm, while the main Galveston office was closed for several weeks..

While the plan for more locks upriver has been abandoned, small boat navigation is possible up the river to Liberty, TX.

At the Wallisville Lock, there is also a visitor’s center. If you are passing through the area on I-10, this looks like an interesting stop.

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