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Red River, Cass counties pass resolutions opposing Marvin Nichols Reservoir

Going again flow, the Red River County Judge says it’s needed by Andrew Bell | December 19, 2021 at 10:00 p.m. | Updated December 20, 2021 at 12:14 p.m.

TEXARKANA, Texas -- Commissioners of Red River and Cass Counties recently passed resolutions opposing Marvin Nichols Reservoir and calling for it to be removed from the Texas state water plan.

As long as the reservoir is in the state water plan means that there is the real possibility that 200,000 acres in Northeast Texas could be flooded to quench the needs of the Dallas Metroplex.

The resolution states that the Red River and Cass County Commissioner's Courts oppose the development of the reservoir and request removal of the project from the state water plan. The resolution also urges the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to utilize conservation, reuse and existing water resources for their regional water supply.

These votes demonstrate continued regional momentum against the proposed reservoir, which opponents say could alter the Northeast Texas landscape and impact the lives of thousands of Texans.

Cass County Judge Becky Wilbanks said that for her county, this reservoir would not be beneficial.

"I'm in favor of (the resolution) for several reasons," Wilbanks said. "Mainly, it would jeopardize and impact our local tax base through the mitigation impact. Also, it could negatively impact our one major industry in Cass County: Graphic Packaging. So, from a county point of view, those are the two main things. It would affect the tax base, not only for the county, but for the schools. And we don't want to lose any industry that we have."

It is projected that the reservoir, proposed on the main stem of the Sulphur River in Red River, Titus and Franklin counties would flood 66,000 acres of hardwood and upland forest, pasture and farmland and wetlands. An estimated 130,000 additional acres would be removed from private land ownership for mitigation, the resolution states.

Not all commissioners in the surrounding counties oppose the reservoir, however.

Red River County Judge L.D. Williamson was the sole commissioner in the county to vote against the resolution. He wrote "Nay" next to his signature.

"I'd love to see it built, and I would've loved to have seen it built 20 years ago," Williamson said. "If we would've went ahead with it when we had it going 20 years ago, our county would've been much better off than it is right now. It would bring a lot of development here and a lot of tax base that we don't have.

"But unfortunately, I've never been able to convince people here that it's a good thing for our county. They see nothing but the bad parts."

Williamson said that while the reservoir would indeed take land, it would also bring a water supply that could potentially benefit his county.

"It's got some features to it that you might not want to lose," he said. "But on the other hand, every lake that's been built in the United States that I've ever heard of that were not core lakes were reservoirs built by bigger cities or counties – just like Lake Palestine, Lake Ray Hubbard, Lake Cypress Springs over in Mount Vernon area. All of those have brought lots of development to that area.

"One of the reasons we don't get industry in Red River County where we have good paying jobs is because we don't have water. Our water comes from smaller aquifers, so we can't say we've got lots of water here. Most industries that use water want to see it, not to say 'Well, it's underground there. You just can't see it.' They want to be able to see the water, and we don't have any of that here to show them"

Williamson said Red River County has been shrinking in population for the last 30 years or so, and he thinks this could be the boost needed to attract more residents and industry.

"When the DFW area needs the water, it will be built," he said. "Everyone agrees to that – even those who are opposed to it agree to the fact that it will be built when and if Dallas has to have it. Dallas-Fort Worth is growing, and they've got all the political power in the world to do this if they want, and one of these days, they'll have to."

Wilbanks said that while she understands the reservoir would impact different counties in different ways, she ultimately hopes that the resolutions passed influence the Texas Water Development Board into slowing this process down or doing away with it completely.

"We do not want to lose acreage. We don't want to see mitigation – family land, family farm land, timber, wildlife – mitigation of all of that could greatly affect our area," she said. 'Taking private land away from ownership is never good. Timber is our main industry. So, when you remove forest land, that is another detriment to the tax base of Cass County.

"I would like to see other avenues looked at, like conservation of water, use of water – just different ways to fill the needs of the urban areas without taking from the rural areas."

Print Headline: Red River, Cass counties pass resolutions opposing Marvin Nichols Reservoir

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