Lake Ralph Hall: First reservoir in 30 years?

Posted Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Lake Ralph Hall will finally be on the agenda in Austin Tuesday. If approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, it would be the first new water supply lake in Texas in roughly 30 years.

North Texas has grown a lot in that time, but not its water supply. That’s why the TCEQ decision on Lake Ralph Hall is incredibly important.

This proposed new lake has been studied for more than a decade. It’s now time for the state to approve it.

Water planning experts say it’s needed. There have been numerous public hearings and meetings. It’s been reviewed and approved by state agency staff experts, and an administrative law judge panel has recommended that the permit be granted.

The next step, which is up to the TCEQ commissioners, is granting the state water rights permit. That’s what they have the opportunity to do on Tuesday.

Lake Ralph Hall is a critical element in continuing the economic prosperity our region has enjoyed.

Planned in Fannin County near the city of Ladonia, 114 miles northeast of Fort Worth, this lake would be the first major water reservoir constructed in Texas in 30 years. It would provide between 30 million and 45 million gallons of water each day for the families and businesses of North Texas.

The reservoir can contribute approximately $18 billion in economic benefits to our region.

Water often is the first thing businesses ask about when they are considering moving or expanding here. They’ve read stories about the Texas drought and potential future water shortages, and they want to be assured that they and the families of people who work for them will have a continuous, safe, affordable and reliable source of water.

Texans remember that 2011 was the driest year in the state’s history. Not only did it empty our lakes and kill our lawns, it also caused billions of dollars in damage to our economy. Despite a moderately rainy 2012 and 2013, drought conditions persist across much of the state.

As of last week, our statewide reservoirs were only 59 percent full. And with the Texas population expected to double in the next 50 years, the need to address our water shortages has never been more pressing.

Failure to approve Lake Ralph Hall would amount to ignoring the lessons of our past.

From 1947 to 1957, Texas faced the worst prolonged drought in its history, which brought untold damage to the state’s economy. By the end, all but 10 of Texas’ 254 counties were classified as disaster areas.

Our state’s leaders swore to never again be caught unprepared for long-term drought. The “State Water Plan” was born and more than 126 reservoirs were created by 1980. Unfortunately, since 1980 we have neglected our duty to protect ourselves against a repeat of this scourge, and per capita water storage in the state has fallen by 30 percent.

The planning and permitting process for reservoirs takes many years. Support for Lake Ralph Hall has been overwhelming, coming from elected officials, local interests and landowners, water planning professionals, varied business interests and more. The North Texas Commission is proud to add its name to that list.

If approved, Lake Ralph Hall will ensure that when North Texans turns on the tap, water comes out — for both our residents and our businesses. And that’s something we can all raise a glass to.

Mabrie Jackson is president and CEO of the North Texas Commission.

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