FORT WORTH — The Tarrant Regional Water District board unanimously approved a $92.9 million construction contract Tuesday for a $2.3 billion pipeline designed to bring more water to the area from East Texas.The bid by Garney Construction was “our lowest and most qualified proposer,” said Wesley Cleveland, program director for the integrated pipeline project. The joint project is being built by the water district with Dallas Water Utilities.The awarding of the contract signals that project will soon be laying pipe for the huge project.“We are now getting into the meat of the IPL,” Cleveland said. Garney will build a 15-mile segment of the pipeline in Navarro County. It will eventually be part of a 149-mile pipeline that will bring more water to Tarrant County from Cedar Creek and Richland-Chambers reservoirs while also moving water to Dallas from Lake Palestine.The first portion of the project is expected to be completed by 2018. but it is being built in stages to make it more affordable. If there is a need for more East Texas water sooner, some of the later phases can be built faster.The water district provides raw water to 98 percent of Tarrant County residents.Once it is completed, the pipeline will allow the water district to pump an additional 197 million gallons per day from the two reservoirs, near Corsicana, to Benbrook Lake. When the entire project is completed, Dallas will be able to pump up to 150 million gallons per day from Lake Palestine to Joe Pool Lake.It should provide enough water for the water district until 2030 and perhaps until 2040, depending on population growth and water conservation efforts.Construction of the pipeline has stirred some controversy. Last month, the water district voted to use eminent domain to acquire 11.6 acres for the pipeline. The land in Henderson County belongs to Dallas hotelier Monty Bennett, who has been an outspoken critic of the pipeline.Last year, Bennett sued the water district, saying it violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when it approved parts of the pipeline project. The lawsuit says the board “rubber-stamped” a decision by district staffers and committees, with no public input.Officials from Dallas and the water district said altering the pipeline route would likely cost millions and delay the project by at least a year.Earthquake concernsBoard members on Tuesday also discussed whether seismic activity in western Tarrant and eastern Parker has had any impact around Eagle Mountain Lake, which the district controls.David Marshall, engineering services director, said the series of earthquakes since November haven’t posed any problems for Eagle Mountain’s dam.Marshall said seismologists from Southern Methodist University have installed temporary monitors at the dam and the water district is talking with the university about adding permanent monitors. But Marshall said the water district has had some monitoring equipment at the dam for about six years.Board member Mary Kelleher, who had been pushing for the discussion on gas and drilling activity, said the water district needs to look more broadly at the topic.“This it too dangerous of an issue to not discuss in depth because we only have one shot at our water supply,” Kelleher saidIn response, board Chairman Vic Henderson said the board will “do whatever we need to to satisfy we don’t have a potential problem there.”But water district staffers said that they have no evidence of problems with gas or disposal wells around the lake being affected by seismic activity and that the legal authority to inspect them rests with the Texas Railroad Commission.Henderson said Kelleher and board member Jim Lane could hold a public meeting later to discuss gas and drilling issues further. Any findings from that meeting would probably be sent to the board’s environmental committee.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna