What goes on outside a city council meeting oftentimes is much more interesting than what’s taking place inside.
That was the case this week when I saw Wally Kraft, David Nabors and Sharron Nabors in conversation outside a Paris City Council meeting after Kraft made a presentation as vice president of the Sulphur River Basin Authority.
Before I divulge their conversation, however, I would be remiss if I didn’t clarify something about Kraft’s presentation — and about the status of Pat Mayse Lake since his presentation has rekindled debate about selling Pat Mayse water. Lamar County is located in two separate river basins —the Red River Basin to the north and the Sulphur River Basin to the south. Decisions about Pat Mayse Lake are governed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Tulsa District as part of the Red River Basin while the Sulphur River Basin is under the auspices of the Corps’ Fort Worth District.
Facebook-generated discussion of late implies Kraft’s presentation involved the sale of water from Pat Mayse, which is not the case. In fact, Kraft has said numerous times he applauds the City of Paris decision in 2009 against selling water outside Lamar County.
Beginning in March 2008, a city council-appointed Pat Mayse Lake Study Committee completed an 18-month study financed by the city of Irving concerning a proposed water sale to the Metroplex. Two things happened: One, a threatened initiative prompted the passage of a city ordinance dated April 14, 2008, that guarantees a city-wide vote before any water from Pat Mayse is sold outside Lamar County; and two, the city council in August 2009 ended negotiations with Irving after the blue ribbon study committee reported in order to sell water and still provide for the future use of Paris and Lamar County, either the lake level would need to be raised or other ways found to capture the massive amount of water that leaves Pat Mayse yearly via a release valve at the dam when the lake level is at 451 feet or more above sea level.
Now, back to the discussion between Kraft and the Nabors.
It’s not often one gets to listen in on a discussion between individuals who have been on opposite sides of the much debated and highly controversial issue of building reservoirs on the Sulphur River. Nabors, and his wife, Sharron, who have rotated positions on the Region D Water Board for almost 20 years, have long battled the building of lakes on the Sulphur, which will inundate hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and hardwood timber forests from Lamar County to Lake Wright Patman in Bowie County near Texarkana.
Kraft has been reappointed recently by Gov. Greg Abbott and Reeves Hayter, also of Paris, appointed to six-year terms on the Sulphur River Basin Authority board with Hayter taking the seat formerly held by Brad Drake of Paris. Hayter was in attendance at the Monday City Council meeting but was not in on the outside discussion.
Quite frankly, I thought fireworks might be flying when I stepped outside because I remember Nabors saying years ago the Sulphur River Basin Authority was no friend of Region D. That was when the Northeast Texas regional water planning group was in litigation with the Texas Water Board over the 2007 Texas Water Plan because Region D and Region C, the Fort Worth-Dallas regional planning group, were in disagreement over the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir.
Region D regional planners and the Sulphur River Basin Authority have since learned to work together although not much else has changed in the past decade, I learned from listening to the conversation. The Corps of Engineers in Fort Worth, having been inundated by problems in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina, has not yet given direction to the Sulphur Basin Authority, and Region D and Region C are still undecided about how best to provide the water needed to supply a fast-growing metroplex out 50 years without devastating Northeast Texas.
I learned options being studied more than a decade ago when I was knee deep in covering the water debate are still being considered. Those options include raising the water level at Lake Wright Patman to catch Sulphur River water before it escapes to the Gulf of Mexico; talking the state of Oklahoma into selling water from the southeast part of the state (yes, that’s still a possibility); building the massive 72,000-acre Marvin Nichols Reservoir in Red River, Titus and Franklin counties — or perhaps about seven smaller reservoirs including a couple in Lamar, Delta and Hopkins counties; or piping water uphill more than 200 miles from the massive Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Texas-Louisiana Border.
Although I didn’t hear him say it Monday night, I recall something David Nabors said in an article I wrote in 2013: “They want to sell their water but can’t,” he said of the counties surrounding Toledo Bend. “Dallas wants to buy water but doesn’t want to pipe it that far, and there is not enough money to be made by engineering and construction firms in laying water pipe as there is in building lakes. And that is part of the story behind the controversy between Region D and Region C.”
There probably is a lot of truth in Nabor’s assessment.