Northeast Texas reservoir debate resurfaces in Austin

Jan 6, 2015

A long-running dispute over the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in Northeast Texas tops the agenda Thursday for the Texas Water Development Board in Austin.

This county road would be covered by the Martin Lake Reservoir.
Credit Mark Haslett / KETR

Dallas-Fort Worth’s Region C Water Planning Region and East Texas’ Region D will each have 10 minutes before the three-member panel.

Jim Thompson, chief financial officer for Ward Timber Co., in Atlanta, Texas, will speak on behalf of Region D. The board is deciding whether Marvin Nichols should be allowed to stay in Region D’s 2011 water plan.

Thompson says a decision on this technicality will not end a fight over whether to build this massive lake adjacent to the Sulphur River and pipe water about 170 miles to the Metroplex.

“If the Region C area continues to push for Marvin Nichols, I anticipate this fight will probably last 40 to 50 years at a minimum,” Thompson said.

Sam Collins of Newton, Texas, was a lead planner of Toledo Bend Reservoir and managed the Sabine River Authority for two decades. The Marvin Nichols Reservoir first appeared in the state water plan in 1968.

Collins says many of Texas’ reservoirs were built in the 1960s. But today, he says, there’s a lot more red tape and a lot less land for potential reservoirs.

“It’s an emotional thing. There’s a big saying in the water business that whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting,” Collins said. “A lot of times, water supplies are not really where the population is so the main problem is trying to get the water where the water is needed.”

Thompson says the water plan of 1968 is a far cry from where Texas' water resources stand today.

“Just the fact that it was stuck in a plan in 1968 as a possible future mechanism for future water planning does not mean that it should be in there today,” Thompson said.

Thompson says he looks forward to addressing new water board appointees, and once again presenting the case against a reservoir that would destroy rare bottomland hardwood forest and he says cripple the timber industry in the Ark-La-Tex.