COLUMN | Preserve Northeast Texas — stop Marvin Nichols Reservoir project

As a fourth generation East Texan, a property owner, a businessman, a father, an Eagle Scout, and as Mayor of my hometown of Atlanta, Texas – not to mention a lifelong advocate for private property rights and personal responsibility- the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir flies in the face of all I hold dear. And while my ancestral homestead is not in the proposed taking, it is heritage farmland; and only a matter of time before big cities and big spenders swiftly run through whatever resources they are able to procure from us now, only to come back for more later. That’s why there’s never been a more crucial time to support the Preserve Northeast Texas effort and stop the Marvin Nichols Reservoir.

Understandably, this issue has been on the back burner in recent history; to the point that some may not realize it is still a threat. Let me assure you, our neighbors to the west have not taken their eye off our land in the 20 years since it was first proposed. In fact, they’ve hastened their efforts, shifting the proposal from simply an idea to a solid piece of the State’s Water Plan. You see, urban and suburban communities don’t know what it means to scrimp and save, to conserve and preserve. We here in rural northeast Texas are used to making our own way, pulling up our bootstraps, planning for the future, providing for ourselves, and looking out for each other.

As a fourth generation East Texan with farmland that has been in my family for more than 100 years, I know the generations of pride and heritage that have preserved and maintained so much of region’s landscape. The land in the proposed reservoir and surrounding floodplain is where our friends and neighbors, live, where many of us sustain our livelihoods, and where our families are buried. We cannot let Dallas-Fort Worth trample on our rights and our land.

As a businessman and lifelong resident of this community, I cannot abide the economic loss this proposed reservoir brings with it, because it’s not just water that will be shipped to the metroplex, it is jobs and more. Generations of families who call our region home could be forced from their land and if they move from here, they won’t be investing in our banks, shopping at our grocery stores, or worshipping in our churches. Their loss will be our community’s and our economy’s loss.

As a father and an Eagle Scout, I have a lifelong love of nature and the unique beauty of our region’s outdoor spaces. A love I want to pass along to my children. Over half of the land to be taken for the proposed reservoir is bottomland hardwood forest, forested wetlands, and upland forests. Not only would this project hit us in the pocketbook and our own backyards, but our wildlife habitat and natural beauty would suffer significant loss. Our trees and the many species of wildlife that call them home could be displaced, destroyed, and endangered.

Finally, as a local elected official and municipal leader, I don’t like how the proposed reservoir would negatively impact our local tax base and jeopardize funding for our schools and communities. While much of Texas is growing, sadly, our region is not. We have lost population in recent years while other areas are booming. If we were to lose 200,000 acres of private land, we would lose residents who call those acres home. As caretakers of the public trust, it is my responsibility – and that of my counterparts across our region – to protect our community from outside forces who would damage our economy, our environment, our land, and our future.

As Texans we need to be innovators – that means innovation in our conservation and reuse too. Just as we here in Northeast Texas have been good stewards of our land, our neighbors to the west should look to ways they can steward what they already have. Northeast Texas is a special place. It’s a place where our community comes together when someone is in need. My family and I experienced that firsthand over the past 8 months as I was called to active duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army Reserves. The outpouring of love and support to my wife and kids was astounding. Our collective love and support for our region, our community, our economy, our land, and our resources should be no less important. Now is the time to come together and fight to stop Marvin Nichols.

The Hon. Travis Ransom, Mayor is mayor of Atlanta, Texas