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Texas Ranchers Angered over Eminent Domain Taking for Reservoir

Lower Bois d'Arc Creek Planned Reservoir
Map: North Texas Municipal Water District

Ranchers and farmers in North Texas are angered over the prospect of losing their land and homes through an eminent domain taking for a new reservoir. One rancher estimates that 200 people will lose their property while the water will go to the Dallas area.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, a new water reservoir will be built in North Texas. Officials with the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) claim the Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir will provide water for 1.7 million people, Paul Cobler reported for KERA News and the Texas Tribune. Critics point out the water will not be used for the rural counties in North Texas but will instead be piped to the rapidly growing Metroplex.

Bonham City Manager Sean Pate points out the economic boom a new lake would bring to the area.

Pate equated the reservoir’s construction project to an “oil boom” as construction crews flock to the area. “Then, we expect people to stay because of … Texans’ fascination with lakes. This is going to create a lot of changes in our community,” Pate said.

Not all of those changes are seen as positive.

Harold “Thump” Witcher, Jr., is a farmer in Fannin County will likely lose his land located inside the boundaries of the planned lake. He will not be among those who expect property value increases due to waterfront features.

Witcher says there is already enough water.

“They just want to build this reservoir for inessential uses. They want to turn it around and take people’s farm and ranch land away so people can water their lawns.”

Witcher and the other people who live and work in what will soon become a lake bed are out of options as the Army Corps of Engineers issued the federal permit in February allowing the water district to begin the construction process. One of the first steps will be to condemn the properties that are in the way of construction through the application of eminent domain.

KERA reported that the beneficiaries of the lake’s construction will see an increase in housing values and Fannin County could experience economic growth of about $20 million per year.

City Manager Pate admitted that city and county officials are excited about the reservoir despite the “adjustments to daily life” that might be needed. He proclaimed that boaters, fishers, and sightseers will be drawn to the new lake. “There’s just too much good to come from a project like this that it outweighs any of the drawbacks,” he explained.

Witcher explained what those “adjustments” might look like.

“The Bonham City Council and the mayor all think it’s going to be the finest thing in the world, but if you actually talk to the populace themselves, they’re actually not that in favor of it,” he stated. “People are losing their homes and their way of life.”

Water District spokesperson Janet Rummel said the reservoir is expected to cost $1.2 billion. The board approved two loans of $500 million to be paid back over several decades by raising water rates for people who live in the Dallas metro district.

While the district has already purchased the majority of the land that will be required, Witcher is not yet negotiating with officials.

“I’m not doing anything until I’m forced to leave, but right now we’re kind of just dead in the water,” he explained

The construction will take three years to complete and another two years for the lake to be filled. A current drought in the area could lengthen the time for the reservoir to reach capacity, officials stated.

The new lake will be Texas’ 189th major water-supply reservoir–the first since 1999 when officials opened Lake Gilmer in northeastern Texas.

“I’ve got some cousins that are losing land that’s been in the family since 1865,” to reservoir construction, Witcher told the Athens Review. “It’s a crooked deal.”

City Manager Pate told tIt appears Witcher’s will not be one of them.

“I’m going to retire at the end of March, and my whole dream my whole life has been to retire and live here and enjoy my place finally,” Witcher expressed. “I’m going to have to move. I don’t know what I’m going to do and how this is all going to shake out.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTXGab, and Facebook.

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