New North Texas reservoir gets state OK, but do we need it?

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by JOBIN PANICKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @jobinpnews

WFAA

Posted on September 24, 2013 at 11:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 6:04 AM

It's been almost three decades since the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has approved permits to build a water supply reservoir in Texas.

The last such permit was issued in 1985.

On Tuesday morning, the TCEQ announced it would approve a permit submitted by the Upper Trinity Regional Water District to build a lake 80 miles northeast of Dallas; a place roughly 1.5 miles north of Ladonia.

The reservoir would be called Lake Ralph Hall, and is approximately 11,200 acres; roughly the size of Lake Grapevine. It is named for 4th District Rep. Ralph Hall, who was first elected to Congress in 1980.

Lake Ralph Hall mapLake Ralph Hall will provide 30 to 45 million gallons of water each day. The water district puts the cost of the project at $275 million.

“In order to avoid a water crisis, we need Lake Ralph Hall online and full by the mid 2020s,” said Jason Pierce of the Upper Trinity Regional Water District.

But not all of the district’s 25 member cities are on board with the plan to create a new reservoir. It’s unclear how many member-cities are against the lake, but Mayor Tom Hayden of Flower Mound says his city is the water district’s largest customer.

“They’re pumping champagne out of our faucets already," he said. "Their water is one of the most expensive in North Texas."

Hayden puts the costs of the lake at $400 million, and says his residents will have to bear the brunt. The mayor doesn’t know how much each customer would pay, but the Upper Trinity Regional Water District says wholesale customers could pay 8 to 15 percent more to help build the lake.

“They’re just talking about more and more supply, and their largest user is using less and less, and they haven’t signed new customers in five to 10 years,” Hayden said.

The water district says there are no current plans to bring more cities into the fold, and it stresses, "that’s not what this is about."

“It’s the not the question of more cities joining; it’s the question of, as cities continue to grow, their water needs will also increase,” Pierce said.

Pierce said the Lake Ralph Hall project is still in its early stages. The water district still has to buy up the land for the lake, and some of that land is federal property owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.

E-mail jpanicker@wfaa.com

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