Opponents ask Texas lawmakers to remove Marvin Nichols Reservoir from state water plan

By Jess Hardin

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 21, 2023

Opponents of the Marvin Nichols reservoir are asking the Texas Legislature to remove the long-disputed project from the state water plan.

The Texas House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday heard testimony about 11 bills, including the sunset bill for the Texas Water Development Board. The bill, which expires every 12 years, establishes provisions for the board’s continued operation.

In her testimony on the bill, Janice Bezanson of the Texas Conservation Alliance asked the committee to take the project out of the state water plan.

Bezanson represents Preserve Northeast Texas, a campaign formed in 2021 to oppose the reservoir project. Marvin Nichols Reservoir would flood 66,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forest in Cuthand, 30 miles southeast of Paris, to provide water to the growing Metroplex 150 miles away.

Since 2000, the water region that includes DFW and the one that would include Marvin Nichols have fought over the necessity of the reservoir and when it would be built. The state’s 2021 water plan pushed up the project’s anticipated completion date by 20 years, from 2070 to 2050, galvanizing the latest campaign against the project.

“If this $5 billion project were the only way for the people of DFW to get water they’re going to need, that would be one thing. But, fortunately, that isn’t the case,” she said.

As part of her testimony, Bezanson distributed to committee members a copy of the Star-Telegram’s Feb. 13 story about the proposed reservoir.

“This is getting a lot of attention,” Bezanson said, holding up a copy of the Star-Telegram. “In your packets that are passed around, is a PDF of this article which took up five pages of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently.”

The story Bezanson referenced chronicles the decades-long fight against Marvin Nichols and details the effects of the proposed project on the environment, timber industry and livelihoods of nearby East Texans.

The hearing comes just a few weeks after CBS19 (KYTX-TV) asked Gov. Greg Abbott for his views on the project.

“There are water needs, whether it be in the Dallas area or even in the Tyler area,” Abbott said. “But what we must do, we must explore other options before we start taking people’s lands or flooding property that’s been around for literally centuries.”