Opponents of Marvin Nichols Reservoir project in East Texas score a win — for now

By Jess Hardin

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 9, 2023

The new state budget includes a victory for opponents of Marvin Nichols Reservoir, the proposed 66,000-acre impoundment in northeast Texas that would provide water to the Metroplex.

After extensive advocacy against the project by Preserve Northeast Texas, a campaign formed in 2021, the budget will include a provision that requires the Texas Water Development Board to conduct a feasibility study by 2025. It would also give opponents, including conservationists, ranchers, farmers and timber processors, more opportunity to state their case.

The study would analyze a timeline, costs, land acquisition considerations and the economic impact of the project along Sulpher River.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar certified the 2024-25 state budget on Wednesday; the $321.3 billion appropriations bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The Marvin Nichols Reservoir project would flood thousands of acres of bottomland hardwood forest in Cuthand, 30 miles southeast of Paris and about 150 miles from the Metroplex.

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 2022 water plan pushed up the project’s anticipated completion date by 20 years, from 2070 to 2050, galvanizing the latest campaign against the project.

In testimony, which referenced and distributed Star-Telegram reporting in February about the proposed reservoir, opponents of the project explained it’s not the only option for satisfying DFW’s future water needs.

“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,” Janice Bezanson of Texas Conservation Alliance said in her testimony before the Texas House Natural Resources Committee in March.

In February, Abbott commented on the project and told CBS 19 in Tyler that all avenues should be explored before “taking people’s lands or flooding property that’s been around for literally centuries.”

Jess Hardin covers growth and development. After graduating from Georgetown University, she completed a Fulbright grant in Georgia (the country) and did a brief stint of federal service in whistleblower protection. Jess comes to Fort Worth after helping launch digital news start-up Mahoning Matters in the wake of the closure of The Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio. Send tips to jhardin@star-telegram.com or via Twitter to @jesslhardin.