Bud Kennedy

Tarrant water campaign is over East Texas land

Digging a trench for the Tarrant Regional Water District’s Integrated Pipeline.
Digging a trench for the Tarrant Regional Water District’s Integrated Pipeline. Tarrant Regional Water District

We all would hate a pipeline though our land.

But we all expect to turn the tap and get water.

That is the tiny trickle of truth in the $500,000 torrent of mail about an election Saturday on Fort Worth’s water future.

Hotel executive Monty Bennett of Dallas doesn’t want a $2 billion metropolitan water pipeline from East Texas going through his rural ranch. So he funded two challengers for the Tarrant Regional Water District board.

He is not the first wealthy East Texas landowner to use political muscle against condemnations by thirsty North Texas cities piping water from as far east as Toledo Bend.

Nor will he be the last.

Fort Worth and Dallas need water to grow. Only East Texas has it.

“It’s accepted that there is going to be more moving of water around Texas,” Ken Kramer said, viewing Texas’ water conflict from Austin in his role with that chapter of the Sierra Club.

“That will require pipelines and eminent domain. … I think moving water is seen as preferable to building new reservoirs.”

After the parched 1950s, Texans accepted seizing private land as an emergency in a building spree that included two lakes serving Fort Worth: Cedar Creek and Richland-Chambers near Corsicana.

“People were not as opposed to the government then,” Kramer said.

Now, Northeast Texas landowners and environmental groups are fighting plans to build a lake north of Mount Pleasant, the Marvin Nichols Reservoir.

Most of all, rural Texans wish we’d quit piping water for lush, sprawling suburban lawns. But along with water restrictions and conservation, projects like the water district’s Integrated Pipeline help cities meet needs without another lake.

Yet liberty-minded Republicans from East Texas vehemently oppose almost any condemnation of land or eminent domain, and some local Tea Party voters take that side.

The next time somebody says the government should never take anyone else’s land, ask that person how they expect to bathe and drink.

Austin environmental lawyer Rick Lowerre is president of singer Don Henley’s Caddo Lake Institute and often represents litigants over water.

“DFW is coming to East Texas for resources,” he said, calling it a rural vs. urban issue.

The argument against eminent domain is growing, he said.

But if the question is whether a pipeline serves a public need, “that’s pretty clear,” Lowerre said. “That’s tougher to fight.”

That doesn’t mean ranchers won’t try.


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