g 47.g7i1g#A4Pa ^MU; fbgig ib lWas = Even moderate conservation measures, according to figures compiled by the Sierra Club, would make the reservoir unnecessary, and save taxpayers millions of dollars. Shirley Schumake arvin Nichols is not a well known name in northeast Texas, but he is a legend in AL Dallas. Until his death in 1969, Nichols was a partner in one of the state’s oldest and most influential engineering firms, Freese and Nichols, which counts among its accomplishments the Panama Canal, along with many of the reservoirs built in the state after the drought of the 1950s. Nichols also served on the predecessor of the Texas Water Development Board, and was an early proponent of the .project that now bears his name. In the 1980s, Dallas-area water planners hired Freese and Nichols to assess the potential for a new dam on this section of the Sulphur River. Local developers and progressminded politicians had been dreaming of a dam in the area long before that, at least since the 1960s, according to local memory. Marvin Nichols would require over $28 million worth of concrete alonethat’s a lot of progress for a region with a 10-percent unemployment rate and a moribund economy. As part of the state-funded water planning process, Freese and Nichols was hired a few years ago to assess the Dallas region’s water needs. Not surprisingly, the report recommends building the Marvin Nichols reservoir, a project on which the firm has already done a good deal of work. “These engineers view the planning process as a way to get their foot in the door,” for potentially enormous contracts, said Norman Johns, who spent years working for a major engineering firm before going to work for the National Wildlife Federation. That’s one of many faults environmental groups have found with the current round of water planning in Texas.The Marvin Nichols Reservoir is a product of the state’s new “groundup” water planning process, in which each of the state’s regions submits its own assessment of the area’s projected water needs and how it plans to meet them. The regions received guidance but little controlling authorityfrom the Texas Water Development Board, which has traditionally been responsi-. ble for drafting the state water plan. As a result, say critics, the regional planning groups, dominated by interests like utilities, industry, and river authoritiestraditionally supportive of major projects, have submitted wish lists of every project they’ve ever dreamed of, including 33 different reservoir sites. The northeast planning group \(Region reservoir development. “It was understood from the start that the idea was to build lakes,” said Richard LeTourneau, who represented environmental interests on the Region D planning group. When Region D’s engineers concluded that the region had no need for a major reservoir for the foreseeable future, the emphasis quickly turned to fulfilling the needs of a region that did, LeTourneau said. That’s where Dallas came into the picture. Northeast Texas is a water gold minethe Sulphur River Basin holds over half of the state’s unallocated waterand Dallas has had its eye on the region for years. In fact, northeast Texas water planners had signed a memorandum of understanding with Dallas before the planning process even got underway, agreeing in principle to build the reservoir and send water to Dallas. Members from the two regions began meeting jointly almost from the start, and much of Region D’s planning process became devoted to fulfilling Dallas’s projected need for water. But that very projection has itself become controversial. “Every other region projects their water use to go down per capita over the next generation,” said Erin Rogers of the Sierra Club. “Dallas is moving in the other direction.” San Antonio, by contrast, has reduced it’s water consumption by 30 percent over the past 13 years, Rogers continued on page 11 11/23/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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