'Marvin Nichols is holding us hostage' | School superintendent says reservoir issue is hurting community

Rivercrest Independent School District Superintendent Stanley Jessee, a Red River County resident, speaks in opposition of building the Marvin Nichols Reservoir at a Region D water planning meeting on Thursday in Pittsburg, Texas.

PITTSBURG, Texas - Stanley Jessee told members of Region D Water Planning Group Thursday that the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir is holding his family and neighbors hostage.

"I live in Cuthand (Texas) in Red River County so you know why I'm here. The majority of my family's land will be underwater. I am totally against Marvin Nichols," he said.

The proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir would inundate 63,000 acres of land and send thousands more acres into mitigation along the Sulphur River north of Mount Pleasant. Cuthand is about 68 miles west of Texarkana.

Jessee was one of a number of people who spoke before the group during the public comment portion of a four-hour meeting.

He is superintendent of the Rivercrest Independent School District and also spoke about how the district would be affected by Marvin Nichols.

"Marvin Nichols is holding us hostage when it comes to long-term planning," he said.

Rivercrest ISD is in Bogata, Texas, about 10 miles from Cuthand.

Jessee said Marvin Nichols would "put its foot right down in the Rivercrest School District. All land underwater would have to be taken off the tax roll. People will have to move. I will have to move. It will hurt state funding and it will hurt Rivercrest," he said.

Region D members officially oppose Marvin Nichols in its draft water plan.

Representatives from both Region D (Northeast Texas) and Region C (Dallas-Fort Worth) met Thursday afternoon at the Region 8 Education Service Center in Pittsburg.

Region C wants to include construction of Marvin Nichols by 2050 in its draft for the 2021 state water plan.

Region D wants either no construction of Marvin Nichols or that it occur no earlier than 2070, which is what both regions agreed upon in 2015.

During the meeting, Region D members tried to hammer out language for its Initially Prepared Plan that could be submitted to the state as the group's water plan for the next 50 years. The plan is due to the state by March 3.

Thursday's meeting ended with Region D's 24-person committee scheduling its next meeting for Feb. 26 at the Region 8 Education Service Center in Pittsburg to work on more details for the wording of the draft. The time of the meeting is tentatively set for 1 p.m.

But the meeting might need to start earlier so the group can finish before the Education Service Center closes at 5 p.m., said Region D Chairman Jim Thompson of Bowie County.

Donna Warren, a retired educator who owns property in Red River and Bowie counties, also spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. She spoke of the loss that residents would suffer.

"You have heard for years how people's homes and lands will be taken from them. It's about property lost, lost homes, lost cattle ranches. There are a lot of things to consider, but the first thing is what is the right thing for everyone and the generations to come," she said.

Warren also questioned future costs involved with the project.

"Roads will have to be built to replace flooded ones. Utility lines will have to be replaced. Where will that money come from?" she asked.

Most people who spoke were opposed to Marvin Nichols.

However, one DeKalb resident said he was for the proposed lake.

John Joseph said it would benefit his and others people's children and grandchildren.

"If the lake comes in, that's going to bring a lot of growth," Joseph said. "We all know we want to give our best to our families."

At the beginning of the meeting, Chandler Peter with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers gave an hour-and-a-half presentation regarding the permitting process for new reservoirs and mitigation issues.

"This is obviously very important to a lot of people here," he said.