When the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to H.R. 5302, the Water Resources Development Act last week, it brought a project in Fannin County one step closer to completion.
The bipartisan amendment introduced by Reps. Sam Johnson, Pete Sessions, John Ratcliffe and Eddie Bernice Johnson, will require the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Corps of Engineers to issue a final decision on a permit for construction of the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir by no later than Sept. 30, 2017.
Of course, for that deadline to hold, the bill must first become law.
The lawmakers said the $1 billion, 16,526-acre project is vital if North Texans in Collin County expect to have enough water to meet demands in the year 2021. The reservoir will be between 22 and 70 feet deep.
“This reservoir is essential to meet the needs of 90 communities in the ten counties served by the North Texas Municipal Water District,” Tom Kula, executive director of NTMWD emphasized in a statement released by Rep. Sam Johnson. “We supply water to one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation, and water conservation alone will not be enough to support a population that is expected to double over the next 50 years. We must start construction of the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir as soon as possible to avoid the risk of water shortages.”
NTMWD spokesperson Janet Rummel said permitting for the reservoir has been underway for almost a decade and the NTMWD continues to work closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA and other agencies to get the last permit needed for the project to proceed.
“If the USACE complies with the directive in the law and meets the deadline established in it by Congress, the federal permitting would be completed by September 2017, which could allow NTMWD to begin construction on this vital project,” Rummel said in an email. “If the bill is approved, the project could begin construction sooner than currently anticipated, which increases our chances for water delivery to the communities we serve before 2022. It will take about two years to construct the dam and an estimated 2-3 years of adequate rainfall to fill it to an operational level.”
Rummel said if the bill does not become law, the NTMWD would continue to work with the federal agencies involved in the permitting process to secure the permit, “as soon as possible, hopefully in 2018.”
She added, “Further delays in the completion of the reservoir could put our region at risk for water shortages. There are temporary options we can pursue to avoid an emergency situation for a short duration. However, we serve communities, large and small, across ten counties in one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation. With a population expected to more than double by 2070 in a region that is prone to recurring droughts, reliable water supplies will be absolutely critical to meet our communities’ long-term needs.”
“It’s a serious situation, and I have long been working to ensure that we have sufficient water resources in our community,” Johnson said in the news release. “The solution is the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir. But time is running out. With two years needed for construction and an additional two years to fill the reservoir, we need to get this reservoir online now.”
Ratcliffe echoed that.
“As Northeast Texans, we’re far too familiar with the burdens posed by limited access to vital water resources,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the federal bureaucrats at the EPA have complicated this problem by choosing to continually delay their review of Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir.”
Ratcliffe’s press representative Rachel Stephens said his office does not know when the legislation is expected to be taken up in the Senate.