North Texas

Lawsuit Challenges Proposed Fannin County Reservoir

The Lower Bois d'Arc Reservois "threatens Plaintiffs' environmental and economic well-being, as well as their basic livelihood"

Amid the start of construction on North Texas' first reservoir in nearly 30 years, those who could lose their land to the project have filed a lawsuit to stop it.

Nine Fannin County residents are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who issued the permit for the construction on the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir.

Michael Yarbrough and his brother John are among the plaintiffs. The two own a little over a thousand acres of land near Honey Grove that have been in their family for nearly a century. They carry on a farming tradition with pecan trees and cows, along with the hay they grow on their most fertile acreage to feed the livestock.

That's the land they said they expect to lose to the reservoir project.

"It makes about 60 percent of our forage that we feed our cow, so that’s our winter feed source," said Michael Yarbrough.

That's why they fear the loss could cut into profits.

Others in the group say the project could put them out of business. Ronald Knight says he'll no longer have enough land to raise cattle. Cathy Ryser will lose the majority of the farmland she rents out as her main source of income. Thump Witcher will lose all of his land along with his home.

But while their situations differ, all say they've felt the law has let them down.

They argue policies like the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act require the Corps to ensure that the least environmentally damaging alternative of the project is chosen. They believe that didn't happen in this case.

A spokesperson for the Corps said the lawsuit's been passed on to the Department of Justice.

While the North Texas Municipal Water District isn't named in the suit, it issued a statement saying, "NTMWD is confident the project complies with all federal and state regulations. NTMWD worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies and organizations over the past ten years to receive the permit necessary to build this critically needed lake."

While the plaintiffs have argued NTMWD could pull the water it needs from Texoma and Toledo Bend, NTMWD said without a new reservoir, their won't be enough for the future population of North Texas. Right now, it provides water to 1.7 million people. That number is expected to double over the next 50 years.

NTMWD says it has acquired 85 percent of the land needed for the project, all of which came from willing sellers. It is preparing to begin the process of making formal offers to remaining property owners once appraisals have been completed.

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