For 15 years, supporters and opponents of the proposed Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir dueled over whether the roughly 16,000-acre lake would be built in northeastern Fannin County. Most observers felt that the North Texas Municipal Water District and other interests behind the reservoir would win.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted the last necessary permit for the project on Feb. 2, that victory, always probable, became final. The question is no longer whether the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir will happen, but how.
The first new reservoir in Texas in three decades is scheduled to be complete by 2022. The most recently built man-made lake in the Lone Star State is also in Northeast Texas. Construction on Jim Chapman Lake, still known to almost everyone by its original name of Cooper Lake, began in 1987 and was completed in 1991.
Construction of the Lower Bois d'Arc Creek Reservoir will start this spring. The $1.2 billion project will be a key source of water for 1.7 million people living in 80 North Texas communities, a population expected to double over the next 50 years. The reservoir is expected to help meet the water needs – or wants, depending on how one sees it – of North Texas' rapidly growing population for years to come.
"This is a major milestone for a critical project," Robert Thurmond, president of the North Texas Municipal Water District's board of directors, said in a news release. Thurmond represents Wylie, one of 13 member cities on the board.
Cooper Lake State Park hosts Jim Chapman Lake. The park, a fairly sleepy one compared to bustling state parks elsewhere in Texas, is composed of two units, one south of Cooper and another north of Sulphur Springs. Fishers and boaters frequent the lake, and the resulting business is welcomed by Delta County and northern Hopkins County communities that can always use the commerce.
In contrast, there is no state park in the works for Lower Bois d’Arc Creek. But proponents have touted the potential economic benefits of the project, even as landowners have bemoaned the loss of their homesteads and environmentalists have pointed out the loss of increasingly rare bottom land.
To mitigate the environmental consequences of such projects, federal law requires that any new reservoir plan must also designated mitigation areas, meaning lands that are taken out of commercial use so as to provide habitat for displaced flora and fauna.
In this case, two locations have been set aside as mitigation areas. The Upper Bois d’Arc Creek Mitigation Area is located adjacent to the southeast corner of the reservoir site, and runs along the east side of Bonham. Elsewhere, the Riverby Ranch Mitigation Area is located in the northeast corner of Fannin County and borders both the Red River and Lamar County.
The plan calls for one bridge to be built over the reservoir. The bridge would be part of a new Farm-to-Market Road, FM 897, which would connect FM 1396, north of the lake, to U.S. Highway 82, south of the lake.
One more land-use change will come to Fannin County as a result of the project. A water treatment plant will be built west of Leonard, with pipelines built from there to connect with the new reservoir to the east and existing infrastructure to the west, near McKinney.
The North Texas Municipal Water District is currently facilitating the bidding process on five aspects of the plan: the reservoir itself, the mitigation areas, the water treatment plant, FM 897, and the pipelines.