By Sam Shaw
Longview News-Journal, October 24, 2023
Until Dec. 1, members of the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the Marvin Nichols reservoir project via emailed statements.
The proposed reservoir, which would be located on the main stem of the Sulphur River in Red River and Titus counties, is part of a controversial, decades-long struggle to secure water supplies for Dallas-Fortworth residents into the next century.
The Texas Water Development Board is seeking input on the following topics: Implementation timeline, associated costs, land acquisition considerations and economic impact.
Comments will be included in a feasibility review of the project set to be presented to the Legislative Budget Board and the governor by Jan. 5, 2025.
The reservoir is projected to cost over four billion dollars and requires flooding to approximately 100 square miles of farms, hardwood forests, timber plantations and the forced relocation of area families.
Leading efforts to realize the reservoir are water planners at Region C of the Texas Water Development Board. There are 16 water planning regions in Texas and Region C includes the Dallas-Fortworth area.
“The future of our region will be defined by the availability of water,” read a pro-reservoir op-ed published in The Dallas Morning News and posted on the Region C website in 2022.
“The fifth water plan was adopted by the Texas Water Development Board last July,” the article stated. “Those who oppose this plan are ignoring the warning signs. North Texas needs another major reservoir.”
According to Region C’s 2021 water plan, acute water shortages are predicted for Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant Counties by 2070, without the development of additional supplies.
Opponents of the reservoir disagree with Region C planners that the massive lake is necessary to provide regional water security and believe its construction will cause lasting harm to communities, industries and habitats the reservoir would submerge.
“People’s homes will be destroyed, family cemeteries and land that people have worked for generations will be inundated,” said Janice Bezanson, senior policy director at the Texas Conservation Alliance.
“They’ll be forced to sell. Or the land will be condemned if they don’t,” Bezanson said.
In order to maintain compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, an additional 200 square miles of land would be requisitioned to offset the effects of the reservoir’s habitat destruction, according to Bezanson, who estimates over a thousand families would be displaced if the project went through.
Opponents also question why the water security approach rests on new reservoirs and not on conservation strategies like those employed in arid western states.
According to Preserve Northeast Texas, a nonprofit organization organized to oppose Marvin Nichols, “80% of the water from the reservoir would be piped to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to water lawns and fill private swimming pools, rather than being available for local use.”
Dallas-Fortworth homes consume nearly triple the amount of water per day compared to households in Denver, Colorado.
State Representative Gary VanDeaver, who represents District 1 where the reservoir is planned, focussed attention on the dispossession of private landowners that would accompany Marvin Nichols.
VanDeaver’s called the reservoir project, “one of the most expensive public works projects and one of the largest land grabs by eminent domain in Texas history.”
VanDeaver’s push to slow the project and give constituents a say led to the feasibility review becoming part of the reservoir’s approval process.
“People in my District deserve the right to be heard by state leaders,” said VanDeaver.
“I fought for the Legislature to include this important review, and I hope everyone will speak out about how the timeline, cost and economic impact of Marvin Nichols would impact them and our overall community.”
Public comments should be emailed to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.