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As part of its 50-year plan to provide the growing population of Fannin County and North Texas with a reliable supply of water, the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) has taken steps to construct the Lower Bois d’Arc Reservoir in Fannin County, just northeast of Bonham.

The water district has already purchased or received commitments from land owners to purchase 82 percent of the land required for the 16,526-acre body of water that will hold 367,609 acre-feet of water when at full pool and will provide 113 million gallons of water per day, according to the NTMWD. The district has to date purchased 18,850 acres for the project, which covers the footprint of the reservoir as well as necessary property surrounding the reservoir.

The water district will construct a dam to transform the raw, agricultural land in Fannin County into an impoundment to hold the water that will be transported via a pump station and a $185 million raw water pipeline to a $249 million treatment plant to be erected in nearby Leonard. A $145 million pump station and pipeline in Leonard will carry clean water to Bonham and any other cities in Fannin County who plan to contract with the water district, as well as to the northern portion of the NTMWD distribution system, which could serve cities such as Allen, Frisco, Plano and McKinney. It has not been determined at this stage in development if those cities would receive water from the reservoir or not.

The Fannin County land, dam and pump station will total approximately $413 million in costs. Added to the aforementioned figures for the raw water pipeline, treatment plant and pump station and pipeline in Leonard, the total costs for the reservoir project come to $992 million, according to NTMWD estimates. The water district has already spent $114.6 million on land, the water treatment plant and the raw water pipeline.

Currently, Fannin County’s population sits at 34,000 but is expected to be about 83,000 within 50 years. The water district expects the population of its service region to more than double to about 3.5 million residents during that time period. As such, the NTMWD has to make investments of this size to provide for such explosive growth.

“Water planning has always been in the forefront of the district,” said Denise Hickey, public relations and water conservation manager for the NTMWD. “You have to have these resources in the planning and permitting stages before the growth actually comes to fruition.”

Planning for the reservoir goes back to 2006, when the water district began the required environmental studies, applying for the necessary permits, acquiring land in the Red River basin and designing the reservoir, dam, pipeline, water treatment plant and pump station. The majority of the remaining work includes the construction of the dam and reservoir, water treatment plant, pipeline and the reservoir impoundment. The water district estimates the reservoir will begin operating in 2020.

The water district will rely on the sale of municipal bonds to fund the project. These bonds are repaid through the wholesale water rate charged to NTMWD’s member and customer cities. As a wholesale provider, all costs associated with the supply, treatment and delivery to the member cities and customers served is included in the wholesale water rate. Each year, the wholesale rate is set and communicated to the entities served by the district.

There has been opposition from parties whose land is being purchased in order to construct the Lower Bois d’Arc Reservoir. Harold Witcher, Jr., who has called Fannin County home since his birth and is the acting spokesman for a group who oppose the construction of the reservoir, said the water district chose a poor location to build.

“The corps of engineers has already determined years ago the site’s too shallow, the water quality’s poor, it has no recharge capability at all unless it’s raining,” he said. “All of the wildlife in Fannin County’s basically in that corridor. It’s predominantly a hardwood bottom ecosystem. Those types of ecosystems in the state of Texas are disappearing. It’s just not a good site.”

Witcher went on to say that the project is not necessary for North Texas residents to begin with, citing his opinion that four-fifths of the water used in the Metroplex is for luxury items such as swimming pools, running streams and lawn-watering.

“If the water was truly, totally needed, that would be one thing,” he said. “I’m in the ranching business. I raise grass to feed my cattle with. I have no irrigation for it, yet I never run out of grass and my cattle get by fine, and my grass does not die from a lack of water, even in the severest droughts. If they will temper the grass and let it get acclimated to no water, it will survive. As long as they’re pouring the water to it, the root system is going to be very shallow.”