Proposed Marvin Nichols site

Residents in Northeast Texas say the signs point to an increased likelihood of Marvin Nichols Reservoir being built, so they’ve formed a group to oppose the lake.

“It would be devastating to the economy of Northeast Texas, like the timber and agriculture sectors,” said Janice Bezanson, a member of the Texas Conservation Alliance. “There are so many other ways to bring water to the Dallas area.”

The new advocacy group Preserve Northeast Texas: Stop Marvin Nichols launched on Wednesday, Bezanson said, under the umbrella of the TCA.

“It’s growing with startling rapidity,” she said.

The coalition has 12 on its steering committee, including notables like Region D water planning group alums Richard LeTourneau and Region D’s current chair Jim Thompson. In it’s 2021 submitted regional water plan to the state, Region D forcefully opposed the Marvin Nichols Reservoir, a proposed lake that would supply water to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, represented by Region C. The reservoir would flood 66,000 acres of heritage farmland, hardwood forest and wetlands in Northeast Texas to pipe water to the DFW Metroplex and require another 130,000 acres to offset the loss of wildlife habitat.

The different regions in Texas create a regional water plan once every five years to submit for the state water plan. In the 2016 plan, Region C had Marvin Nichols at a deadline for being built by the year 2070. However, in the 2021 plan, Region C pushed up the timeline to 2050. The 2016 plan was so contentious between the two regions — over the proposed reservoir — that it came down to lawyers mediating between the two groups, and for the 2016 plan Region C agreeing not to push the reservoir before 2070.

“Suddenly, it’s ‘no, it must be by 2050, and we will not make the same agreement,’” Bezanson said. “These are very clear signals to us.”

In an earlier interview with The Paris News, Region C representatives clarified the previous agreement was specifically for the 2016 water plan.

But the Dallas area doesn’t really need the water, Bezanson said.

“DFW has a really high per person water use,” she said, adding there were many other ways to increase water in the area without building another reservoir to satisfy Region C’s growing needs, with things like a more efficient water reuse program, drawing more water from Toledo Bend or Lake Texoma. “The first would obviously be reducing their overall water usage.”

The people in Northeast Texas don’t feel it’s reasonable to build another reservoir, in the meantime taking away land from families that have owned it for generations and greatly reducing some traditional industries in the area so DFW can “have greener lawns and fill up their pools,” she said.

The coalition is fighting to protect the region from one of the biggest transfers of private land to public in modern history, according to its website.

“This project would have a devastating effect on our economy, drowning resources for our timber and agriculture-based economy,” said Bill Ward, owner of Ward Timber Company out of Linden and one of the steering committee members. “It would also impact the area’s wildlife habitat and inundate archaeological and historic sites and cemeteries, capturing thousands of acres of family lands.”

The proposed reservoir would require that at least another 130,000 acres be taken from private ownership to mitigate wildlife habitat losses created by the reservoir, they added.

“This project is in our backyard,” said Gary Cheatwood, another committee member. “But the benefits would go to urban areas to the west of us. The Marvin Nichols Reservoir would rob us of vital natural resources.”

The group can be found at preservenortheasttexas.org, where they list ways to get involved and have a petition against the reservoir. Their Facebook page is facebook.com/preservenortheasttexas.

Kim Cox is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6965 or at kim.cox@theparisnews.com.

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