Municipal Water Leader
Interview

Lower Bois d’Arc Reservoir Project Takes Major Step Forward

Earlier this month, after more than 15 years of planning, the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) received an approved 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, a 367,609-acre-foot surface water reservoir that will serve 10 counties in north Texas.

Background

In 2002, NTMWD recognized that its existing water sources were insufficient to sustain the region’s growing population, which is expected to double by 2060. For NTMWD, the solution was the construction of Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir. The more than $1 billion project will create the first new reservoir in Texas in a quarter of a century, which will serve 1.7 million people.

The Permit

The Corps section 404 permit program regulates the placement of material into a water of the United States—in this case, Bois d’Arc Creek—under the Clean Water Act. The permitting process requires the Corps to complete a thorough analysis of the effects of a project on the environment and evaluate potential project alternatives. In the case of Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, the potential alternatives evaluated included, but were not limited to, transportation of water from existing reservoirs to the development of new groundwater supplies to desalination. In the end, the Corps’ record of decision supported NTMWD’s plan to construct the reservoir—with some conditions.

“With the 404 permit issued, we are ready to start work on this critical water project for our region. Reservoirs are an absolute necessity in the state of Texas, and most are man-made,” said Tom Kula, NTMWD executive director.

Special permit conditions include mitigation for affected wetlands, streams, and other waters, as well as the prevention of unexpected degradation to the environment surrounding the project. In light of those conditions, NTMWD purchased the 14,960-acre Riverby Ranch, located downstream from Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, for mitigation purposes, and it is also acquiring 1,900 acres upstream of Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir for mitigation. All in all, NTMWD projects that the reservoir and its mitigation efforts will protect in perpetuity approximately 50,170 acres of aquatic and terrestrial habitat along an approximately 42-mile corridor adjacent to and connected by Bois d’Arc Creek.

Financing

NTMWD has spent $135 million so far on planning, permitting, engineering, and land acquisition for Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir and estimates the total cost at more than$1.2 billion. NTMWD has secured most of the funding via a low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board’s State Water Implementation Fund for Texas program, which is expected to save the district $200 million in interest.

Financing

MWRD projects the total cost of McCook Reservoir to be around $1 billion. Although much of the project is covered under a cost-share agreement between the MWRD and the Corps, MWRD had to cover all the costs for certain construction activities outside the agreement with the Corps, including the overburden removal and mining. Given the scope of the long-term project with a life expectancy of 100 years, MWRD was able to take out bonds at a very low interest rate to cover its share of the costs.

Breaking Ground

Now that the permitting and funding are approved, NTMWD is moving quickly to start construction this spring. NTMWD is aiming to complete construction of the reservoir and related projects by 2022. Once operational, the reservoir is expected to yield up to 108 million gallons of water a day for residents and businesses in NTMWD’s fast-growing service area, including Fannin County.

“This has been a tremendous team effort, and we appreciate the support of all involved in the process,” added Mr. Kula. “It is a great example of the value and importance of regional water planning and collaboration among communities for the shared need of an essential, long-term water supply.”