"The river a little narrow deep stinking affair."
This was the first impression of A.W. Moore in 1846 upon seeing the Trinity River near present-day Dallas. For most of the next 150 years, it was believed by many civic leaders that the economic future of the region depended upon navigation of the "little narrow deep stinking" Trinity River, from Fort Worth and Dallas southward more than 300 miles to the Gulf. Thus the ultimate use of the river in the urban area was envisioned to be barge traffic with heavy industry along its banks.
If some raw sewage found its way downstream towards Houston, what was wrong with that? Indeed, in 1925 the Trinity River was characterized by the State Health Department as a "mythological river of death" because Dallas led the state in deaths associated with typhoid.
In 1981, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officially killed the dream of navigation by determining that a federally-sponsored project was no longer feasible. With the Metroplex in the middle of a development boom, the Corps received numerous unrelated requests for federal Section 404 permits to reclaim portions of the Trinity flood plain for commercial and residential development.
Because of concern that potential cumulative impacts could not be adequately assessed through individual permit reviews, the Fort Worth District of the Corps and NCTCOG launched a regional initiative that is still going strong a decade later.