Texas state permit filed to allow first new water reservoir in 28 years
By Allen Rich
Dec 23, 2013
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Bonham -- Friday, December 20, 2013, was an historic occasion for Texas as representatives of Fannin County, the City of Ladonia and Upper Trinity Regional Water District met at the Fannin County Courthouse to file the first state-approved permit in more than 28 years to allow a new water supply reservoir, Lake Ralph Hall. The permit was originally applied for 2003 and successfully met state requirements during a decade of public hearings, technical studies, judicial review and then approval September 24, 2013, by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

(L-R) Fannin County Judge Spanky Carter, Upper Trinity Regional Water District Deputy Executive Director Larry Patterson and Ladonia Mayor Jan Cooper

If all goes according to plan, the next step in this very stringent process will be a favorable judgment and subsequent filing of a federal 404 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to build the proposed lake. The federal permit could be approved in approximately two years, although that time table is completely up to the Corps. 

Lake Ralph Hall is expected to be operational within 15 years.  Engineers predict construction will require 3-5 years and depending on waterfall, it could take as long as three years for the reservoir to fill.  If that timeline proves accurate, construction could start in seven years.  Upper Trinity Regional Water District is predicting that demand for water will surpass available supplies sometime between 2025 and 2030.

Lake Ralph Hall will have a surface area of 7,605 acres, which would be approximately the size of Grapevine Lake, although greater rainfall and runoff in the Sulphur River Basin would indicate that Lake Ralph Hall should yield about 20% more water. Upper Trinity Regional Water District will make water available to the Sulphur River Basin in Fannin County and will supply water to its wholesale customers in the Trinity River Basin, which is primarily in the Denton County area.

The reservoir is part of long-range plans to meet the water needs of the burgeoning population in North Texas, while also resolving an erosion problem of epic proportions. In order to mitigate flood damage along North Sulphur River, in 1928-29 a 16-foot wide, 10-foot deep channel was dug to parallel the river.  That channel is now more than 300-feet wide and 60 feet deep,  10 times its original size, and growing.

Once Lake Ralph Hall is operational, one section of the original North Sulphur River will spring back to life for the first time in 85 years.  Plans call for a controlled release of water in a three-mile section of the river below Leon Hurse Dam, allowing the original flora and fauna to flourish once again.

There are only two lakes in Texas currently in the permit process, Lake Ralph Hall and Lower Bois d'Arc Creek Reservoir.  Both lakes are in Fannin County.