The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects to complete work on an environmental impact study for the proposed Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir project by September, officials recently said. This progress comes nearly a decade after the Fannin County lake first started the permitting process, and nearly 15 years after it was first discussed as a possible water source for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
The project would see the creation of a dam to impound water from the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek to create a 16,641-acre lake just north of Bonham and be separated from Lake Bonham by a reinforced dam. When completed, the lake would have a capacity of 367,609 acre-feet of water that would be used by the North Texas Municipal Water District for use in the Metroplex and North Texas.
“The District is poised to start construction of the proposed LBCR project in early 2018 once it has received the required permits,” NTMWD Public Relations Coordinator Amber Freeland said via email. “Construction cannot commence until after the USACE has completed its assessment and issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision approving issuance of the Clean Water Act 404 permit.”
In March, the USACE released a revised draft environmental study for review and comment by area stakeholders. Since that time, the Corps has received nearly 700 comments from individuals and organizations.
“That’s not from 700 individuals; we just had some people give a lot of comments,” USACE Project Manager Ed Parisotto said.
Parisotto said the Corps received comments from about 35 groups and individuals and is now going through the comments to consider and address any concerns that have been made.
Parisotto said he is the fourth project manager to oversee the project for the USACE since the development of the project started.
“I will probably be the one, but no one sees the future,” he said, holding back a laugh. “But I probably will be the one to see this all done.”
In 2015, the USACE issued its first draft of the environmental impact study. When the study was put out for comments the Corps received 600 comments that took nearly two years to resolve. In March, Parisotto attributed the lengthy revision process to laws in place regarding reservoir development.
Following the review of the impact study, Parisotto said the USACE will review the project and make a final decision on whether a permit should be issued. In the event that the permit is not issued, the decision can be appealed by NTMWD, Parisotto said.
“Permitting, the associated studies, state and federal agency review are an expensive and time-consuming exercise,” Freeland said. “Hopefully, the regulations can be streamlined in the future to minimize the cost and time frames for these major public works projects.”
If the project receives the needed permits, Freeland said construction of the dam would be done over the course of three summers. As construction approaches completion, the impoundment of water will start, she said. The lake will be ready to deliver treated water by 2022, she added.
“Every project is specific in nature and it is a lengthy process,” Parisotto said. “Potentially, some of these other projects could take longer.”
Fannin County officials said the county could see a wide variety of benefits, ranging from recreational options and tourism income to a new source of drinking water if the reservoir project moves forward. In March, officials with NTMWD said the region could see $166 million in annual economic activity related to the lake.
“This is a win-win deal for Fannin County and we’ve seen it that way since day one,” Fannin County Judge Spanky Carter said.
Carter said NTMWD has been a good partner in the project and has proposed several incentives for the county in exchange for the construction of the reservoir. Carter said the district will be assisting with infrastructure upgrades needed for the lake including roadway improvements. Other incentives include the construction of a multipurpose center on the lake and three recreational areas, boat ramps and other amenities.
In addition to the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, Parisotto said there were two additional lake projects that were seeking permits and approval, including Lake Ralph Hall, a second lake in Fannin County. Parisotto said these two additional lake projects are not as far along in development or as large as Bois d’Arc Creek, but he is uncertain how long it will take them to go through the permitting process.