THE PROPOSED MARVIN NICHOLS RESERVOIR
For 15 years, Texas Conservation Alliance and a coalition of landowners, timber industry, agribusiness people, and community leaders in northeast Texas have countered the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir with a wide range of cost-effective alternatives that would provide adequate water for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex while avoiding the huge social, economic, and environmental damage of building the proposed new reservoir. Various versions of the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir would inundate from 40,000 to over 70,000 acres of productive forests, ranch land, wildlife habitat, and long-held family homesteads in the Sulphur River basin. Cost estimates for Marvin Nichols range from $4.3 billion to $4.7 billion.
In 2001, promoters of Marvin Nichols said it would be built and full of water in ten years. Thanks to opposition from the coalition TCA has helped develop, there has been no application filed for a permit to build Marvin Nichols. The City of Dallas lists Marvin Nichols as an “alternative” rather than a “recommended” project. The regional water plan for the DFW area recommends the smaller of the two versions, in conjunction with expanding an existing reservoir, dubbing the joint project the Sulphur Basin Project. Representatives of the regional water planning group recently agreed to put obtaining water from Toledo Bend Reservoir ahead of the Sulphur Basin Project in the regional plan. Most of the elected officials in northeast Texas oppose construction of the destructive reservoir, and many state officials have questioned the need for the reservoir.
Despite the progress the coalition has made in describing the dramatic destructive impacts of building Marvin Nichols, identifying alternative sources of water supply, and generating opposition to the project, building some version of Marvin Nichols remains a recommended water management strategy in the State Water Plan. Texas Conservation Alliance continues to oppose construction of Marvin Nichols and to promote sensible alternatives for water supply, including municipal water recycling, use of existing reservoirs, and increased water conservation.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is under a court order to resolve a conflict between the Region C Water Plan (Dallas-Ft Worth) and the Region D Water Plan (Northeast Texas) over whether to include the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in the State Water Plan. In August, TWDB ordered Region C to submit a quantitative analysis of the impacts Marvin Nichols would have on agricultural and natural resources.
In a response filed December 17, Region D found serious omissions in Region C’s report. Region D’s 41-page response particularly cites 1) failure to analyze impacts downstream of the proposed dam, 2) failure to assess the economic impact on the timber industry, and 3) failure to include assessment of the amount of land that would have to be taken out of production to mitigate the impacts of the reservoir.
Janice Bezanson, executive director of Texas Conservation Alliance, describes Region D’s response as an impressive body of work. Reports attached to the response, written by Joe Trungale, P.E., of Trungale Engineering and Science; Thomas D. Hayes, Ph.D., of Environmental Conservation Alliance; Sharon M. Mattox, Ph.D., J.D., of Baker Botts; and Jim Thompson, the attorney appointed by Region D to draft the response, detailed omissions in the Region C report and described methods that Region C could have employed to obtain more detailed results.