The very first dredging of White Rock Lake did not get off to a great start. Dallas Municipal Archives

When the November Advocate hits your door you will find a few pages about the very first time the City of Dallas sucked — from the floor of White Rock Lake — tons of silt and sludge. It’s a process called dredging, it is an expensive and painstaking endeavor and it needs to happen at our pond about every 18-20 years, according to most environmental experts.

In 2014, the latest study from the Texas Water Development Board found that the lake contained 10,230 acre-feet of water, down from its original volume of 18,000 acre-feet when it was built in 1911. The sediment buildup responsible for the H20 shrinkage also affects the lake’s ecosystems when materials, such as logs and leaves, take the oxygen as they decompose, officials from the Park and Recreation Department have explained. The purpose of dredging is to remove those materials and restore the lake to an appropriate depth for recreational use — sailing, kayaking and the like.

Back in the Civilian Conservation Corps days, the mid-1930s, officials realized  they’d need to dredge, as the buildup was trapping fish and leading to putrid conditions in the “marshlands” of Dixon Creek (from Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas). To do the job, the City of Dallas procured a $31,973 shallow-draft hydraulic boat and called it the Joe E. Lawther for the former mayor who championed park preservation. (That’s about $6 mil in today’s money). 

On Nov. 5, 1937 it left its port on the northeast side of the lake, and within a few days met with one of our burg’s costliest maritime disasters, which you can read more about when the issue is published. 

Today, it has been more than 20 years since the last White Rock Lake dredging, and we had not heard much since reports a year ago about a feasibility study, so we checked in with the Park Department to see where the project stands.

Here is the message Andrea Hawkins, media relations manager shared with us.

The White Rock Lake Dredging Feasibility Study was completed September 2020. The City is exploring next steps including funding avenues for dredging activities. Construction to be funded in the next Bond Program tentatively around 2024. Dredging work could begin three to four years after funding has been identified, allowing time to complete necessary engineering and permitting. Depending on the extent of work undertaken, dredging activities would be anticipated to last between one to three years.

So there you have it, the whole shebang should be done no later than 2031. At least we’re not rushing into anything.