Dallas: Yeah, yeah, we know that you made a 25,000 national wildlife refuge in Anderson and Cherokee Counties along the Neches River. But can't you just find some OTHER SITE? We WANT YOUR WATER!!! Geez, we don't even like what you NAMED the refuge because WE want YOUR RIVER!
Dallas and the Texas Water Development Board want to build the Fastrill Reservoir on the Neches in order to meet the Dallas area's water needs in coming decades.
But last summer the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established a 25,000-acre national wildlife refuge along the upper reaches of the Neches in Anderson and Cherokee counties.
Dallas and the Water Development Board sued the federal government in January over the naming of the refuge. They alleged Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of the Interior established it without considering the environmental and economic impact on North Texas....
"I can't go out in town out in public without people saying, 'How's the river going?'" said Michael Banks, head of Friends of the Neches River. "People are very aware that Dallas wants to come take our water and destroy our natural resources."
P.S. A site relating to this. Protect the Neches River.
Last June the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service designated up to 25,000 acres on the upper Neches River as the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge, but water development interests who want to build a reservoir in that location are now suing Fish & Wildlife Service to block the federal agency from moving forward to acquire land for the Refuge. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), a state agency, and the City of Dallas filed separate lawsuits against the Fish & Wildlife Service on January 11.
The City of Dallas wants to build an unneeded reservoir, called Fastrill, on the same site as the Refuge. Fastrill would drown forever a bottomland hardwood forest of such high quality that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rates it as “Priority 1” for conservation.
Fastrill is not needed for water supply. The Region C Water Planning Group (for Dallas, Fort Worth, and North Texas) identified enough water available from existing reservoirs to meet twice the demand projected for the region as far in the future as 2060. No one is proposing to bring Fastrill on line until 2045. The regional water plan for the Dallas-Fort Worth area shows Fastrill only as a source for a reserve supply for Dallas Water Utilities above their projected demand for 2060. Moreover, the City of Dallas has an incredibly high per capita water use rate compared to that of some other major cities in Texas such as San Antonio. If Dallas ever became serious about practicing water conservation, there would be no need to consider a new reservoir to meet its water demands.
We do need the Neches River Refuge! More than 75% of the bottomland hardwood forests in Texas are already lost – 2 million acres under reservoirs, the rest converted to other uses. Hardwood bottoms provide vital habitat for the wildlife, waterfowl, and migratory songbirds. A refuge on the Neches offers hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, birding, and other outdoor recreation for Texas’ fast-growing population.
The proposed Fastrill reservoir would take many tens of thousands of acres off the tax rolls – 30,000 acres for the lake and an unknown but probably larger amount for mitigation. On the other hand, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service will compensate local counties and school districts under a revenue-sharing program for land acquired for the National Wildlife Refuge.
The Fish & Wildlife Service will not exercise the power of land condemnation to acquire land for the refuge – unlike the builders of the reservoir. The Service will purchase lands from willing sellers only. The Service will provide financial assistance to relocate those landowners who choose to sell their lands for the Refuge.
TWDB and the City of Dallas are suing the Fish & Wildlife Service claiming that the federal agency did not take required steps for public review and comment on the proposed creation of the Refuge and did not do an adequate analysis of the impacts of creating the Refuge. Environmental leaders who were actively involved in the process that led to the establishment of the Refuge strongly refute those claims.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife bent over backward to meet every provision of NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act]," says Janice Bezanson, issues coordinator for the Texas Committee on Natural Resources. "The agency even contracted for an extra socioeconomic assessment of the impacts of creating the wildlife refuge. At Dallas' request, Fish and Wildlife also did an analysis of alternatives sites for the refuge and found that none of the alternatives matched the value of the site selected. I am fully confident that the Fish & Wildlife Service assessment will withstand the strictest review by any court."
The issue for TWDB and the City of Dallas is not really about the process by which the Fish & Wildlife Service evaluated the prospective refuge, took public input, and decided to establish the Refuge. TWDB and the City of Dallas simply do not like the decision that was made. The decision to create the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge, however, serves the public interest and protects an incredibly valuable natural resource for future generations of Texans. Special water development interests should not be allowed to block creation of the Refuge in order eventually to build an unneeded reservoir for use by an area that has so far failed to demonstrate any credible effort to achieve water conservation goals already attained by other major metropolitan areas in the state.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has made public statements supportive of the litigation filed to block the National Wildlife Refuge. He needs to understand the strong public support for the Refuge. As the person who appointed all of the members of the governing board of the Texas Water Development Board, he has the ability to influence their decisions and to urge that state agency to drop the taxpayer-funded litigation against the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the Governor takes a position in support of the Refuge, that support will bolster the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to acquire the land for the Refuge and may convince the City of Dallas that they will be fighting a losing battle to block the Refuge.