Corinth opts out of supporting lake

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CORINTH — City Council members voted not to support the construction of Lake Ralph Hall, a water supply source Upper Trinity Regional Water District officials are seeking to build and have operational by 2025.

After receiving a presentation from Justin Brown, public works director, about the project on Thursday, city officials were left with more questions than answers.

Brown, who acts as the city’s representative on the water district’s board, said many of his questions directed toward Upper Trinity officials regarding the justification for the project remain unanswered.

City officials said they did not pass a resolution in support of the $250 million project because they were unsure whether alternatives for new water resources were explored.

“I’m not saying the lake is not needed,” council member Joe Harrison said. “What concerns me is that we have these questions and they’re not being answered.”

Mayor Paul Ruggiere said the city, as the water district’s second-largest customer behind Flower Mound, shouldn’t have to struggle to find answers, especially when the cost of construction will be covered by the district’s customers.

Officials expect that the construction of the new lake will result in a 40 percent to 50 percent rate increase, which translates to costing the city about an additional $1.7 million a year.

“There is no federal or state money supporting this,” Brown said. “All of this will be paid on the backs of Upper Trinity members.”

Upper Trinity spokesman Jason Pierce said many details have not been finalized and that many questions the council had could not be answered immediately.

Council members spent several minutes asking Pierce questions about the project and whether other alternatives have been explored.

“We’re just not at liberty to talk about some things,” he said. “But we are making every effort to explore other options.”

The decision to construct the lake has not been made yet, Pierce said.

Upper Trinity officials said the proposed Lake Ralph Hall would help the water supplier meet growing demands for water in North Texas and for the 25 communities it serves in Denton County.

However, Brown told council members that he questions the water district’s urgency to have the project completed by 2025.

Brown said the only way Corinth will reach the level the Upper Trinity is projecting is if water demands increase by more than 5 percent a year through 2040.

“And that’s what I call extreme growth,” Brown said. “It’s very rare and almost unheard of to grow at that rate year after year after year.”

Officials in Flower Mound — Upper Trinity’s largest customer — have also raised questions about the water district’s inflated population estimates and price tag.

An Upper Trinity spokesperson denied the accusations, saying the population estimates are based on projections from the state and district customers.

The lake is expected to cover 11,800 acres of southeastern Fannin County. Before construction of the lake can begin, the water district’s 2003 water-use permit request must be approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Council members agreed to support the permit. If approved, it would be the first major water supply reservoir authorized for North Texas in 30 years.

Brown said the TCEQ permit could be issued this fall and that the Corps permit could take about two to three years.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is jharden@dentonrc.com .


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