About a year ago, Terry and Art Wilcox decided to do something to save White Rock Lake.

They banded together with other neighborhood residents and formed Save the Rock, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about White Rock’s problems.

Art is president of the organization, and Terry is secretary. Almost overnight, the group grew to a mailing list of 1,200.

When the City Council was developing the bond program for the May elections, members of Save the Rock started a letter-writing campaign. Each Councilman was flooded with letters stating that funding for White Rock Lake dredging needed to be part of the bond program.

It was so overwhelming, the Mayor’s office called some community residents and asked them to stop sending letters.

“People feel strongly about this issue,” Terry says. “We were told their fax machines were burning up.”

“The City fathers, well, they see White Rock Lake as an asset, but they don’t treat it that way.”

The efforts of Save the Rock and many other organizations, such as Friends of White Rock Lake and the East Dallas Chamber of Commerce, worked.

In May, Dallas voters overwhelmingly approved the bond program, which included $9 million to dredge White Rock Lake. An additional $9 million for dredging will come from the Water Department. The project is expected to begin as soon as this fall.

In October, the City will sell $55 million worth of bonds to begin the bond program projects. Of the $55 million, $1.4 million is for the White Rock Lake dredging project, says Councilman Mary Poss, whose district includes the lake.

Once the money starts flowing, here’s a look at the expected schedule:

  • November 1995 – the first $1.4 million becomes available.
  • December 1995 – a contract will be awarded to design the dredge project. The project’s responsibility transfers from the Park Department to the Public Works Department.
  • Summer 1996 – construction for the dredge project begins.
  • Summer 1997 – dredging begins and will take up to two years to complete.

“There was definitely a sense of urgency from the citizens,” says Nancy Begel, the engineer with the Dallas Park and Recreation Department who has overseen the White Rock Lake dredging project.

The Project

A hydraulic dredge will be used to suck silt from the bottom of the lake, Begel says. The dredge is basically a boat with a pump that works as a large vacuum cleaner.

Large pipes will channel the silt to other Dallas parks, where it will be used to build levees and fill land that floods. The pipes will be placed, temporarily, across public rights-of-way to move the silt to the desired locations, Begel says.

It’s not clear how long the dredging will take, Begel says. The timing depends upon whether one or two dredges are used; the size of the dredge(s); and whether the project will run around the clock or just on weekdays.

The dredging will concentrate on the northern third of the lake, where the silt is deepest, Begel says.

The goal is to return the lake to a depth of eight feet.

“We feel confident we can achieve the quantity we want to take out,” Begel says.

What Happened?

The silt is top soil that naturally flows into the lake from upstream, Begel says.

The City is trying to find a way to slow down the silt’s buildup, but an affordable and practical solution hasn’t been found, Begel says.

One solution: The City may purchase the dredge so the Public Works Department can carry out routine maintenance at White Rock Lake and other City lakes, Poss says.

When White Rock Lake was built in the early 1900s, the original survey reported a volume of 16,006 acre feet. An acre foot is one acre covered by one foot of water (approximately 65 tanker trucks of water per acre).

Today, the lake has about 50 percent of its original capacity, according to the White Rock Lake Restoration Study commissioned by the City.