GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) – Riding across the lake to the Joe Pool Dam, Major Andrew Liffring with the Army Corps of Engineers found no reason to fear that it could suddenly give way. “It looks fine to me.”
Six months ago, his predecessor seemed to feel differently. He wrote a letter to the city of Grand Prairie warning natural gas drilling could ‘possibly contribute to catastrophic dam failure’ with thousands of lives and properties in danger.
Last week, Grand Prairie mayor Charles England called the letter and possible failure “scary as hell.”
But was such an alarming warning really necessary?
On Wednesday, CBS 11 caught up with Major Liffring as he was walking out of a meeting the mayor said he’d been requesting with the Corps of Engineers for months.
He said the second letter, dated April 18, is more appropriate in addressing risks at the dam.
Liffring says what the corps really wanted to say was simply that drilling or fracking near the dam may present an increased risk, not that it will.
So why such dire language in that first letter? The major couldn’t say. “I really don’t know. I wasn’t with the corps at the time. I think it was to make sure we got the city’s attention.”
It did get the city’s attention. Last week, Grand Prairie passed a moratorium to stop further drilling by Chesapeake energy.
Chesapeake has one natural gas well within a thousand feet of the dam, and has permits to drill another four.
The second letter, never made it to Mayor England, even though it was dated in April. “We never saw that letter until today.”
Major Liffring says the Corps’ intention in both letters was simply to persuade the city to stop permitting any drilling within 3,000 feet of the dam, while the Corps studies what possible impact it could have.
He says when this dam was built, hydrofracking didn’t even exist, and was never taken into consideration.