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Proposed Northeast Texas Reservoir Moves Two Steps Closer to Construction

Fannin County has adopted a comprehensive plan for zoning the land around a 16,500-acre reservoir east of Bohnam. Meanwhile in Washington, the US House of Representatives has moved construction of the Lower Bois d'Arc Creek Reservoir one step closer to construction.  

Audio Transcript


Creta "Spanky" Carter: It is Tuesday, October the 18th, 2016. It is nine a-m. We are here for a regular meeting of the Fannin County commissioners court. 


George Hale: Fannin County is adopting a comprehensive plan for zoning the land around a 16,500-acre reservoir east of Bohnam.


Carter: We’ll move to agenda item no. 5: Discussion, Consideration and Action Regarding Adoption of Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir Lake Comprehensive Plan ... 


Hale: It's a little unusual - zoning is typically left to cities and municipalities. But Fannin County in 2011 successfully petitioned to change Texas law granting it the authority to zone 5,000 feet of shoreline. 


Stanley Barker: Judge, I move that we adopt the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir lake comprehensive plan.


Carter: I have a motion from Commissioner Barker.


Jerry Magness: Second.


Carter: Second from Commissioner Magnus. All right, any discussion? All in favor please say aye. 


Gary Whitlock, Dean Lackey, Barker, Magness: Aye. 


Carter: Any opposed? All right, motion carries. Thank you, sir. Thank y’all very much for being here this morning. We’ll move to agenda item no. 6 … 


George Hale: Daniel Harrison is project manager of the engineering firm Freese and Nichols, which authored the plan on behalf of the county. 


Daniel Harrison: ... Being able to meet the water needs of the state. Being able to meet the recreational needs of the county. And really providing a great destination to get people to come out and to enjoy Fannin county. ... DFW is going to grow as a region by a couple million people here in 20 or 30 years. ... So, it’s really a great way to set the tone for development and define who Fannin County is going to be in the future. Because we know it’s going to change, and here’s our chance to shape that.


Hale: The perception that outsiders are shaping their future has raised some concerns from landowners in the county. And not only for those losing land under the lake. Some have concerns that property values might go down depending on what ends up next to them. Others -- including one at Tuesday's meeting -- fear they’ll go up when major development starts. 


Harrison: If someone has 20 acres and a house and some cows out in the field, is this change going to affect them? ... When the plan and the zoning really takes effect is when someone sells 200 acres and a developer comes in and wants to develop on you know 8,000 square foot lots or something like that. ... And so once we sort of answered some of those questions about like how is this going to affect me? Well if everything just continues the way it has been for the last 10-20-30 years, it really doesn’t affect you. But once you start doing development it needs to be coordinated with the plan in conformance with the zoning regulations around the lake. 


Hale: Freese and Nichols authored the plan on behalf of Fannin County. But its cost of $150,000 was covered by the agency creating the lake. The North Texas Municipal Water District acquires water for 13 affluent suburbs around Dallas. It's financing the whole reservoir, projected to cost about $1.2 billion. The project can’t begin until the district receives a permit from federal authorities. And it's already a year behind schedule. But the district’s fortunes have shifted slightly in the last few weeks: The US House of Representatives has passed an amendment to the Water Development Resources Act requiring that a permit be issued within a year. Billy George is assistant deputy director for water systems.


George: We’re keeping in close contact with our congressional delegations. Those who both in our specific region and those who are ancillary who get the importance of water supplies to the future of the Texas economy — all the Texas economy. 


Hale: He described the amendment as a less-demanding version of a bill submitted in February that would have stripped federal regulators of authority over the project. 


George: The original bill that was filed ... essentially ... would have exempted this project from the Clean Water Act.  ... That’s still a resolution that ... isn’t moving forward in great earnest. What that has morphed into, at this point, is Amendment no. 5 ... The language in it is a little bit toned down. Because now it’s a timeline. 


Hale: Despite the public disagreements, George says the agency’s working relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency and US Army Corps of Engineers is positive. 


George: We're sitting down, talking about the project, where are we at, what are the roadblocks. And those leaders are taking care of their responsibilities. ... You know, they’re asking the right questions and they're requiring the right things. The right things for the environment and the right things for the public. 


Hale: George elaborated on the water district’s view that there should be a clear set of guidelines on how to conduct required studies, and how to end them, and when. 


George: The science is going to continue. The science is advancing today and it will continue to advance. But when you’re going through meeting public necessity need for something as critical as water supply, at some point you have to stop and say: OK, This is the science we’re applying. And we’re going to move forward and build to that science. And design mitigation for that science. 


Hale: If it passes, the amendment would require federal authorities to issue a final permit for the lake by this time next year. Construction would begin the next day. For KETR, I'm George Hale. 

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