City Hall

City Creates Committee To Clean Up Oncor's Mess at White Rock Lake

Dallas residents used to exploring The Old Fish Hatchery at White Rock Lake were shocked to see the area with a new cut, courtesy of the electricity company Oncor.
Dallas residents used to exploring The Old Fish Hatchery at White Rock Lake were shocked to see the area with a new cut, courtesy of the electricity company Oncor. Thomas Lowery
For the second time in two decades, several acres of The Old Fish Hatchery at White Rock Lake were mowed down by local energy provider, this time Oncor, surprising Dallas residents used to exploring this little bit of nature in the Big D.

D Magazine broke the story a couple of weeks ago. The story alludes to Dallas Morning News reporting from 2000 about this same stretch of land being hit by TXU Electric, leaving it full of stumps and demolished trees. Kelly Cotten, then-president of the Environmental Center of Dallas, told the News that regrowth in the area would take up to 15 years.

Assuming Cotten was right, just five years after the hatchery had grown back to pre-TXU-destruction levels, Oncor plowed through its transmission right of way saying it needed to be done to provide safe and reliable electricity to consumers. But they didn’t notify the city about it. This is where the company missed the mark, Kerri Dunn, a spokesperson for Oncor, said.

“We want to do better,” Dunn said. “While we missed the mark on our lack of communication with key stakeholders and customers, we’re working to remedy that going forward and will be sharing plans as they develop.”

Charles Elk, Oncor’s director for customer relations, will sit on a newly formed committee announced by Dallas City Council member Paula Blackmon on Friday.

Elk, Park Board member Maria Hasbany and several others will make up The Old Fish Hatchery at White Rock Lake Advisory Committee,  the first meeting of which will be held via Zoom Oct. 22.

In a press release about the committee, Blackmon said, “Through community involvement and formalized partnership agreements, the goal of this community advisory group will be to care for the Old Fish Hatchery, re-build trust with the community, mitigate the growth of invasive species, and formalize communication channels with stakeholders operating on and around this space.

Oncor’s long-term goal for the site, Dunn said, is to work with members on the advisory committee to promote a habitat for pollinators, songbirds and other wildlife that is compatible with the need to provide safe and reliable service.

Dunn said that the area had become overgrown with a mat of already downed trees and rapid-growing, dense vegetation that created a potential fire hazard. She added that very few mature trees were removed during the process and an ecological assessment on the wetlands and surrounding habitat was performed before their work began.

“I understand the need for reliable electric service,” Blackmon said. “But, I am confident that we can all work together to create a space for birdwatchers, nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts in an area that is in the Oncor-owned right of way.”
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn