BONHAM — One of Fannin County’s proposed water projects, the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, has moved a step closer to reality. The North Texas Municipal Water District announced Wednesday morning that it has received a water rights permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for the project, completing one of the final steps of the permitting process. That process must be completed before construction on the lake can begin.

BONHAM — One of Fannin County’s proposed water projects, the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, has moved a step closer to reality. The North Texas Municipal Water District announced Wednesday morning that it has received a water rights permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for the project, completing one of the final steps of the permitting process. That process must be completed before construction on the lake can begin.


The proposed reservoir will extend from just east of Bonham to the northeast just south of Caddo National Grassland. The reservoir is expected to come close to Lake Bonham, and NTMWD Deputy Operations Director Mike Rickman said part of the project includes the reinforcement of the dam where the two lakes would meet.


Rickman said these permits, and the construction of reservoirs, in this region is rare. The most recent project similar to what will be done in Fannin County is Lake Ray Roberts, which was completed in 1986.


"I’ve been in the business for nearly 46 years and this is the first time I’ve been involved with getting a water rights permit for a reservoir," Rickman said.


The LBCR is expected to have a surface area of 16,526 acres with a storage capacity of more than 367,000 acre-feet. It will yield up to 108 million gallons of drinking water per day for NTMWD customers, including Bonham and McKinney.


This will make the reservoir a larger water source for the district than its current primary water source, Lake Lavon, located north of Rockwall. Lavon produces about 105 million gallons per day.


An additional 15,000 acres of land has been designated for local plants and wildlife that will be displaced by the construction.


Once the reservoir is operational, Rickman said the NTMWD will blend water from Bois d’Arc with water from Lake Lavon at a future facility located near Leonard. Bois d’Arc will be supplemented with waters of Lake Texoma, which NTMWD already has water rights to, Rickman said.


Still, Greater Texoma Utility Authority Director Drew Satterwhite does not expect this to impact the District’s pumping from Lake Texoma.


"The Metroplex is one of the fastest growing areas in Texas, and they are in constant need of water resources," Satterwhite said, noting the NTMWD only uses a portion of its water rights on Texoma.


When the case went before the TCEQ, the permit request ended with no contesting stakeholders, making it the first uncontested permit issued by the TCEQ for a large reservoir in 50 years, Rickman said.


The District must now receive a Section 404 permit under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — a requirement of the Clean Water Act — before it can draw the nearly decadelong permitting process to a close. Then the project can enter the construction phase, which is expected to extend from 2016 through 2019. From there, the reservoir will take an estimated two years to fill.


While he is optimistic about the project, Fannin County Commissioner Stan Barker said he project is far from complete. "It can start in 2016, but it is going to be a very slow project," Barker said.


Barker said he believes this will be a boon to the county as it will increase recreational options for residents looking for something closer than Lake Texoma. With the growth of recreation along the lake, Barker said the increase in sales tax will help boost county coffers.


For bait and tackle shop owner Brad Hall, who operates just south of Bonham, news of the new reservoir could mean an increase of business. Hall said currently fishing options are limited, and concentrated near Lake Bonham and Bonham State Park Lake.


"When that new reservoir comes in, I am sure there will be good fishing there," Hall said, highlighting channel and blue catfish that are common in Texoma waters.


The NTMWD projects that the completed reservoir will increase taxable real estate values in Fannin County by $316 million. The construction of the reservoir, and property acquisition is expected to increase economic activity in Fannin and neighboring counties by $682 million, including $256 million in labor income.


The project has generated some opposition from landowners and other stakeholders, but Barker said it was not unexpected.


"That is true for any project of this size," Barker said. Despite the opposition, Barker said the fact that nearly 80 percent of the land for the project has already been acquired speaks volumes to the public opinion of the new reservoir.