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Cities not on board with lake plan

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

Flower Mound, Corinth, others want to explore water supply options

A few officials in some area cities served by the Upper Trinity Regional Water District are opposing the construction of Lake Ralph Hall, a new lake that the district says will help address future demands for water.

The area leaders said they support efforts to secure future resources, but they question whether or not it’s time to begin investing in a new lake or if all alternatives have been explored.

Upper Trinity officials said that it’s time to begin planning now, not later.

But many cities are hesitant to jump on board because the cost of the lake will fall on the backs of the residents in cities served by the district.

Upper Trinity is planning to have the lake built in Fannin County, northeast of Denton County. The water district estimated the lake would cover 11,000 acres, about the size of Grapevine Lake.

About 80 percent of the water from Lake Ralph Hall would be transported to Denton County, according to the Texas Water Development Board. The remaining 20 percent would be available for use in southern Fannin County.

The project is expected to cost between $200 million and $400 million, according to the development board.

Flower Mound, which makes up about 42 percent of the Upper Trinity’s customer base, has led the opposition and has persuaded other cities to follow.

In early spring, Corinth — Upper Trinity’s second-largest customer — also opted to pass a resolution opposing the lake’s construction until alternatives have been explored. The city of Krum also passed a similar resolution.

Justin Brown, Corinth’s public works director and Upper Trinity liaison, said rates could jump about 40 percent to 50 percent. For Corinth, that translates into an additional $1.7 million a year, Brown said.

“There is no federal or state money supporting this,” Brown said. “All of this will be paid by members.”

Brown said that officials in almost all of the 27 governing bodies the district serves said the district left them with more questions than answers about the project.

Corinth Mayor Paul Ruggiere said the district’s customers shouldn’t have to struggle to find answers, especially when they’re expected to cover the costs.

Denton County Judge Mary Horn has been one of the county’s biggest supporters of the lake. In a letter addressed to surrounding communities, she said the lake would create a dependable, secure water supply for the county.

She also wrote that an additional lake would ensure that water services are not interrupted during a shortage. She concluded that a new lake is the only option that makes sense to support the county because resources from other sources are limited.

Outside of Denton County, the lake has gained much support from the state.

Last month, administrative law judges for the State Office of Administrative Hearings recommended that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approve Upper Trinity’s permit to build Lake Ralph Hall.

Flower Mound issued a statement after the state office’s recommendation, outlining town officials’ disappointment in the decision.

Town officials said they are only seeking alternatives to the lake in an attempt to save Denton County residents millions of dollars and postpone construction until the lake is needed.

The issue now goes before the TCEQ where Upper Trinity hopes the permit will be granted this fall. Many officials say they believe the permit will be approved without trouble because reports from the state support the lake.

According to a 2006 report from the Texas Water Development Board, Denton County needs a major new supply by 2020, much earlier than most of the other wholesale water providers in the area.

Upper Trinity executive director Tom Taylor said it takes 20 or 30 years to get a new lake online so officials must plan way ahead. He said that by the time the lake is operational, there will be a major need for it.

“The metroplex will double over the next 50 years, and we predict Denton County will quadruple,” Taylor said. “We only have about another 15 years of adequate supplies.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.