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Commissioners Expected To Approve Permits For New Reservoir

Dana Ann Evans

Tuesday morning state environmental officials are expected to approve water permits needed to build the Lake Ralph Hall reservoir northeast of Dallas.

State demographers with the Texas State Data Center expect the population of Denton County to add almost 100,000 residents and grow 13 percent by 2030.

Thomas Taylor of the Upper Trinity Regional Water District says those new customers are why it’s crucial that state environmental commissioners approve the permits for Lake Ralph Hall.

“If we didn’t have Lake Ralph Hall and we weren’t planning for it we wouldn’t be able to meet the needs of our customers,” said Taylor.

Lake Ralph Hall, named for the Rockwall congressman, has been on the drawing board for more than a decade.  It would be built on the North Sulphur River, northeast of Dallas, near Bonham.

The lake would be about the size of Lake Grapevine and would be the first new Texas lake that’s a water supply in more than twenty years.

There has been less opposition to this proposed reservoir than some others, but it has its critics.

The Texas Conservation Alliance, which opposes nearly every reservoir, claims Ralph Hall’s conservation plan wastes water and would set a bad precedent for future reservoirs.

The Upper Trinity District’s biggest customer, Flower Mound, claims the new supply won’t be needed until much further into the future than projected. 

Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden says the residents of his city will see their bills escalate astronomically for a water source that’s being built prematurely.

“The Upper Trinity is barely using 50 percent of its capacity, so they are going to build a lake they don’t have demand for.  We are already paying exorbitant costs and it’s only going to increase,” said Hayden.

The Upper Trinity’s Taylor disagrees with Hayden saying the new water supply is needed and the reservoir will increase the cost of water to Flower Mound residents by no more than 15 percent.

“I think the people of Flower Mound would be willing to pay 15 percent to keep from running out of water,” said Taylor, adding other new water sources would be more difficult to develop and more expensive.

If the water-use permits are approved as expected Taylor says it will still be several years before construction begins.  He says Lake Ralph Hall would probably be completed in about a decade.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.