Lake Ralph Hall, Texas' First New Reservoir in Decades, Gets Final OK From State

U.S. Representative Ralph Hall isn't dead. The Rockwall Republican hasn't even left Congress, forging ahead in a Bob Barker-like battle against the ravages of the time. Despite all that, Hall is now the namesake of a reservoir.

Lake Ralph Hall hasn't actually been built yet. The project, planned for 12,000 acres in Fannin County, about 80 miles northeast of Dallas, has been in the works for a decade as the Upper Trinity Regional Water District has sought to lock up an extra 30 to 45 million gallons of water per day for its exploding population. Otherwise, it predicts that Denton County will run out of water by 2025.

The lake is now one huge step closer to reality. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved water use permits for the lake on Thursday, the second-to-last major hurdle. Upper Trinity makes its case to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Even when the lake is completed (the current estimate is 2023), it will do relatively little to slake North Texas' growing thirst over the long term. According to the Texas Tribune, Ralph Hall will provide less than one-tenth of what the region will need by 2060.

Yet the project has the potential to be a game-changer. TCEQ's decision today makes Ralph Hall the first new water supply lake in Texas to be approved in a quarter century. It's also being viewed as a bellwether for the state's long-term water supply plan, which include the construction of more than two dozen new reservoirs.

Here's how The Dallas Morning News put it in a recent editorial:

For North Texas, which gets its water largely from surface supplies, that means it is depending on a system created largely in the 1960s -- and it took the killer drought of the 1950s to get that in place.

If the state cannot issue a permit for Ralph Hall, which is not a mammoth lake, what does that forecast for Texas' ability to build the other reservoirs that are part of its 50-year water plan? Not much good, that's for sure.

There remains some opposition to Ralph Hall. Environmentalists want the state to focus more on conservation, and Flower Mound doesn't want to pay higher water bills.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson