In a blow to proponents of the controversial Marvin Nichols reservoir, this morning the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) voted 2-1 to direct the DFW regional water group to do a quantitative analysis of the impacts to agriculture and natural resources if the reservoir was built. TWDB Chairman Carlos Rubinstein said that the Region C water group had failed to include such an analysis in their regional plan and that it now must do so by Nov. 3. TWDB has been ordered by a state court to resolve a conflict in the State Water Plan that includes the reservoir in the Region C plan, but explicit opposition to Marvin Nichols in the Region D (where it would be built) plan. TWDB Director Jackson joined with Rubinstein in the voted, with Director Bruun voting no. Bruun said he supported keeping the reservoir in the plan.
Since the 1960s, various North Texas water supply districts have proposed building a reservoir for water supply on the Sulphur River. The Marvin Nichols Reservoir is included in the latest state water plan as a $3.4 billion project to supply water for municipal and industrial use in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. Up to 475,000 acre-feet of water per year could be piped from the reservoir to customers 115 miles away.
The dam would be 8 miles across, creating a reservoir that would flood 70,000 acres of priceless farms, rare forestland and pristine marsh, which supports beavers, river otters, and dozens of migratory birds.
D Magazine wrote that the area "is a place of sublime beauty, where blue buntings that might have been painted by Rousseau dart through the dense forest-jungles, and the river hacks out a primordial channel." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) considers 94,000 acres of the hardwood forest along the Sulphur River to be “excellent quality bottomlands of high value to key waterfowl species” The forest around the river is so rare, USFWS has designated it as Priority 1 for conservation.
In conjunction with the wetlands and sloughs along the river, bottomland hardwood forests supports waterfowl, beavers, river otters, deer and squirrels. Migratory birds such as Cerulean warblers, Kentucky warblers, and American redstarts nest in the area.
Construction of the Marvin Nichols Reservoir as a water source would flood valuable habitat and alter the natural flow of the river that is critical to maintaining ecosystems downstream. Already, more than 75 percent of all bottomland hardwood forest in Texas has already been destroyed through conversion to pine plantations or agricultural land, logging, or inundation from reservoirs. Today, one of the biggest threats to the remaining sections of this habitat is flooding from new reservoirs.
The Dallas Fort Worth regional water group (Region C) is pushing the Marvin Nichols reservoir, but the regional water group for northeast Texas (Region D - where it would be built) opposes it. In a recent public comment period at the Texas Water Development Board, more than 99% of Texans expressed their opposition to the Marvin Nichols reservoir.
A recent study by the Texas Center for Policy Studies found that simply reducing water use in the Dallas region by 2060 to the same levels as is currently in place in Austin and San Antonio today, would avoid the need for the project.