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The last lake built in the DFW area was 1986. But a new reservoir is in the works

In 2015, Lake Palo dropped to only 8 percent full during the last drought. A new reservoir, Turkey Peak, would nearly double the water supply for Mineral Wells and parts of Palo Pinto and Parker counties.
In 2015, Lake Palo dropped to only 8 percent full during the last drought. A new reservoir, Turkey Peak, would nearly double the water supply for Mineral Wells and parts of Palo Pinto and Parker counties. Courtesy

Getting a lake built in Texas isn't easy.

With tough environmental regulations, angry landowners and the high costs, it rarely happens anymore.

In fact, the last major reservoir to be built in the Dallas-Fort Worth region was Joe Pool Lake in 1986.

But during the drought that broke three years ago, Lake Palo Pinto was close to running dry. The lake, 20 miles southwest of Mineral Wells, had formed cracks in the lake bed, and workers would drive vehicles out on the lake in search of the retreating water. At one point in January 2015, the lake was only 8 percent full and projected to be dry by June.

Then the spring rains came and filled the lake in a matter of days.

But during and after that multi-year drought, the Palo Pinto County Municipal Water District No. 1, which serves Mineral Wells and parts of Palo Pinto and Parker counties, was working to add to their supply. The small water district also has the towns of Graford, Palo Pinto, Santo and Millsap as customers.

Earlier this month, the water district got its permit to build Turkey Peak reservoir, which will be adjacent to Lake Palo Pinto. When both lakes are full, they will essentially be one reservoir.

A $95 million project

Now, officials can start working toward acquiring land for the $95 million project. When completed, the lake's capacity will be 49,000 acre-feet, or 15.9 billion gallons.

"This will come close to doubling the capacity we have," said Scott Blasor, a spokesman for the Palo Pinto Water District.

Once the land is acquired, it will take about two years to construct the lake, Blasor said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit lasts until Feb. 12, 2023.

Under Corps guidelines, Turkey Peak is considered an extension of Lake Palo Pinto rather than an entirely new reservoir, which makes the permitting process a little less cumbersome, said Clay Church, a Corps spokesman.

The Palo Pinto Municipal Water District No. 1 obtained $17.1 million in 2015 from the State Water Implementation Fund (SWIFT), which is administered by the Texas Water Development Board. Blasor said the water district would likely go back to the development board for the remainder of the funding in 2020 or 2021.

"We would go back to them once we have met the requirements," Blasor said.

The water district serves about 31,000 customers in Palo Pinto and Parker County.

More lakes in the works

The most recent major reservoir built in Texas was the Naconiche Reservoir in Nacogdoches County that was completed in 2012, according to the Texas Water Development Board.

Jim Chapman Lake, 75 miles east of Dallas, was completed in 1991.

The North Texas Municipal Water District, which serves Dallas suburbs such as Frisco, Plano and Richardson, is close to starting construction on the Lower Bois d'Arc Creek Reservoir in Fannin County north of Dallas.

A small lake, known as the Arbuckle Reservoir, is also under construction in Wharton County near Houston by the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Two other proposed lakes, Ralph Hall in Fannin County, which would supply water to all of Denton County and parts of Collin and Dallas counties, and Cedar Ridge in Throckmorton County, which has Abilene, Midland and Odessa as partners, are also in the application process.

The raw water supplier for Tarrant County, the Tarrant Regional Water District, has the controversial Marvin Nichols lake in its long-range plans, but that has been pushed further back by other projects. TRWD has also had discussions about building Lake Ringgold with the City of Wichita Falls. There has been no agreement, and Wichita Falls moved forward with its application..

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna

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