Group unites against Marvin Nichols Reservoir

TEXARKANA, Texas - A coalition known as "Preserve Northeast Texas" is opposing the Marvin Nichols Reservoir project and launching a public education campaign to share the project's negative impacts.

The reservoir, proposed on the main stem of the Sulphur River in Red River and Titus counties, would flood more than 66,000 acres of heritage farmland, hardwood forest and wetlands in Northeast Texas to pipe water to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

The proposed site is 50 to 60 miles west of Texarkana and a bit north, generally speaking.

The coalition "Preserve Northeast Texas: Stop Marvin Nichols," is fighting to protect the region from what they describe as one of the biggest transfers of private land to public in modern history.

Jim Thompson, Chief Financial Officer of Ward Timber Company, is a member of the Preserve Northeast Texas Steering Committee.

He outlined his biggest gripes with the potential project.

"The biggest concern is the amount of acres it would be taking away, and by virtue of that, the amount of agricultural and timberland that would be taken away that would put strains on the timber supplies in Northeast Texas," Thompson said. "Graphic Design and International Paper before that have all been opposed to it. Domtar's opposed to it. As far as I know, every timber group in the area is because they know that it's going to put a bind on the timber supplies.

"And that's the reason those mills are here, because we have ample timber supplies."

The most recent draft of the state's water plan has moved the target date for construct up by 20 years.

Water providers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are predicting a strain on the region's future water supply, based on expected population growth and continued high per capita water use.

The Metroplex is proposing another reservoir to meet water demands, as opposed to looking toward other existing reservoirs. In addition to the land that would be flooded, the proposed reservoir would require that at least another 130,000 acres be taken from private ownership to mitigate wildlife habitat losses created by the reservoir.

"Under the Clean Water Act, there's going to be extensive mitigation requirements where I think in all conservative estimates, probably twice as much would be taken out," Thompson said. "So, you're looking at taking 200,000 acres from private landowners and either putting it under water or setting it aside for mitigation."

Atlanta, Texas, Mayor Travis Ransom said an underlying negative effect would be how tax rates are impacted by the reservoir.

"Think about the tax implications of that for local governance," he said. "Counties get property tax on those properties, and they're going to see a huge loss in revenue in perpetuity, which would of course bring other people's tax rates to make up for that loss of revenue. So, that's a concern that you never hear anybody talk about."

Thompson said he would first suggest that the DFW Metroplex improved water conservation, in addition to utilizing existing reservoirs, before resorting to the Marvin Nichols route.

"First and foremost, they need to get their usage levels in line with all the other metropolitan areas in the state," he said. "The last data I showed, their usage was about 50 gallons more per day than Houston, Lubbock, San Antonio and all of the other major metropolitan areas in the state. That would be a tremendous savings. And as a result, it would be less water they'd need in the future.

"Secondly, there are existing reservoirs like Toledo Bend and Texoma that have ample water supplied they could utilize if needed after conservation."

Proponents of the reservoir have moved the target date for constructing the lake from 2070 to 2050, and Region C has reflected that in its draft for the 2022 state water plan.

Thompson said it is mostly important for locals to be aware of this situation and make their voices heard.

"I think it's just reached a point that everyone realizes that if that much acreage, agricultural land and timber land is taken out, it's going to put a real strain on those industries in Northeast Texas. And those are vital to Northeast Texas industries," he said. "It flies under the radar sometimes, and you get lulled to sleep with respect to it. But the more sunshine that is shone on this project, I think most people will realize that it's a bad idea, that it wouldn't be good for Northeast Texas and it's not necessary for the Dallas-Fort Worth area."

(You can learn more about Preserve Northeast Texas: Stop Marvin Nichols online at PreserveNortheastTexas.org and on Facebook and Instagram at @PreserveNortheastTexas.)