Water board should focus on pipeline

Posted Monday, Apr. 28, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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With a wealthy Dallas businessman pulling the strings and paying the bills, there’s a lot of turmoil these days at the Tarrant Regional Water District.

It’s vital to separate the tangled issues. Don’t lose sight of what’s most important.

It could all move into a new stage Tuesday when the district’s five-member board is scheduled to consider censuring one of its own.

Along the way there have been legal battles in state and federal courts, allegations that the board makes key decisions in secret meetings and claims from director Mary Kelleher that she is being denied information she needs to carry out her duties.

Among her requests is to be given copies of checks that paid mortgages for board members, which board member Jim Lane calls “just crazy.”

Now state Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, has submitted a public information request for some of the same information Kelleher has sought.

TRWD’s operations must be transparent, like all public bodies. Still, Kelleher is the target of a censure motion to be considered by the board.

Both Kelleher and Gooden are beholden to Dallas money man Monty Bennett for substantial campaign funding. Bennett gave $125,000 last year to help finance the campaigns of Kelleher and two unsuccessful board candidates, and he has given Gooden $90,000 since 2011.

Bennett is stirring the TRWD pot, and his stated motives are not as honorable as transparency at public agencies.

TRWD and Dallas Water Utilities want to put part of a $2.3 billion pipeline, designed to bring East Texas water to the Metroplex, across Bennett’s ranch in Henderson County.

Bennett wrote in a Jan. 28, 2011, letter to TRWD that he would “vigorously fight any attempt” to build the pipeline across his land.

He said “public funds would be better spent locating an alternate route for your pipeline than fighting an extremely long and costly battle with me on this issue.”

TRWD has started eminent domain proceedings on 11.6 acres so the pipeline can cross Bennett’s ranch. The water district has said an alternate route would add $6 million to $8 million to the cost.

The pipeline is the most important thing in this mess. The district must not back down.

The pipeline is a vital public project that, through a well-defined and long-tested legal process, should follow its most efficient route.

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