U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Makes Major Announcement in Lake Wright Patman Water Supply Study
A press release issued today by the Sulphur River Basin Authority:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced a major milestone today in its multi-year study with the Sulphur River Basin Authority (SRBA) regarding the potential reallocation of water in Lake Wright Patman to make additional water supplies available. The announcement came in USACE’s release of its Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP), in which it proposes that the elevation storage in the lake could potentially be increased to provide additional water supplies.
SRBA board chairman Chris Spencer explained, “The study, which is a partnership between the Corps of Engineers and the Sulphur River Basin Authority, is evaluating whether the storage of water in Lake Wright Patman can be increased to provide additional water to address supply needs while ensuring protection of the environment, dam safety, protection of existing contracts, flood protection, and other considerations.” The SRBA and the USACE executed a 50/50 cost-sharing agreement for the study in 2005, which was modified in 2012 to move the study forward.
The approved Texas State Water Plan identifies approximately 600,000 acre-feet of water needs from the Sulphur River Basin to meet increasing demands from population and economic growth in the DFW Metroplex region of the state by 2070, and is premised on access to both water from Wright Patman Lake for short-term needs (2040) and from the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir for long-term needs (2070). USACE’s announcement today regarding reallocation of water in Lake Wright Patman would provide a cost-effective solution for the short-term needs of 200,000 acre-feet by 2040, but also confirmed that the federal government will not recommend a reallocation of that lake water to meet the entire 2070 need of 600,000 acre-feet, thus implicating the continued need for the construction of the Marvin Nichols Reservoir in the future.
The announcement from the USACE suggests that the water supply pool in Lake Wright Patman can be increased by 6 to 7 feet to an elevation of 235.0, which would result in additional supplies of approximately 200,000 acre-feet per year. An acre-foot of water is the amount of water that would cover one acre of land one foot deep, equal to 325,851 gallons of water.
While additional work must still be performed in the study to ensure protection of the environment and other concerns, SRBA board chairman Spencer called the release of the recommendation by the USACE a “major milestone” in the partnership between SRBA and the federal government in working to provide additional water supplies for the expected growth in Texas. SRBA has entered into agreements with multiple major water suppliers in the DFW Metroplex region in pursuing the development of additional supplies.
The population of the DFW Metroplex region, known as “Region C” in the State Water Plan, is expecting to grow by more than 6 million during the next 50 years, and there is a corresponding need for additional water supplies that accompanies that growth in population and the economy. The development of additional water supplies in the Sulphur River Basin is but one of multiple strategies that will need to be implemented to supply water for that growth. The USACE announcement today suggests that the combination of both the additional water from Lake Wright Patman and the Marvin Nichols Reservoir could provide the portion of those needed supplies from the Sulphur River Basin.
State Representative Lyle Larson, Chairman of the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, who has taken an active role in water supply development for the state and has promoted coordination between the state and federal governments as well as between different regions within Texas, applauded the announcement. “We commend the Army Corps of Engineers for partnering with Texas water suppliers in helping to identify water supply solutions for our growing economy” said Larson. “This partnership between the Corps and the Sulphur River Basin Authority to make additional water available from our existing reservoirs is exactly the type of federal-state cooperation that we need in Texas and around the nation,” he added.