WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) Population growth is one of the reasons city leaders believe the very expensive new reservoir, Lake Ringgold, is needed.
But is it needed and is the tremendous cost worth it?
There are quite a few reasons some oppose Lake Ringgold and one of those is they believe it is simply not needed, but city leaders say otherwise.
Deborah Clark, a Clay County resident and rancher who volunteers with the Texoma Stewardship Coalition, said she stands to lose a lot if Lake Ringgold becomes a reality because it would cut her land in half.
“It’s gonna flood between a thousand to two thousand acres of our ranch, I won’t even be able to drive from my house to the barn when Lake Ringgold is built,” Clark said. “We won’t be able to use this ranch the way we use it now as one big piece of land where we move our cattle through.”
But Director of Public Works Russell Schreiber said the decision to move forward on Lake Ringgold was the result of a long term study, finding Wichita Falls and surrounding towns will need an additional water supply by 2070.
“The state water plan shows the city and this region in a deficit of water over the next 20 to 30 years and obviously that only continues to grow,” Schreiber said.
Schreiber said this will result from population growth and residents and businesses water use in the years to come, but the Executive Director for Texas Conservation Alliance in Dallas is also joining the opposition against the lake, saying Ringgold will cause more harm than good for the residents of Wichita Falls and Clay County ranchers.
“The city already has developed 50 percent more water than it needs now or is expected to need any time in the next 50 years,” Janice Bezanson said. “If the city ever does need more water, it has the water rights to water out of Lake Kemp which could be developed at a much lower cost than Lake Ringgold.”
The 20 plus year project is expected to cost more than $300 million but opponents said the long-term cost is much higher.
“By the time the interest is paid on that $331 million, it’s gonna cost the people of this region about $800 dollars,” Bezanson said. “The current studies that are being done by the City of Wichita Falls are being paid for out of city taxes, but in the long run the cost will probably be paid for with water rates, the city will either get a loan from the Texas Water Development Board, use existing bonding authority possibly, whatever mechanism they use it’s the people through their water rates who will have to pay for this.”
“If we had that reservoir during that last drought we probably would never have done DPR, we probably wouldn’t have done the IPR project and we probably wouldn’t have gone through draconian water restrictions that we were under,” Schreiber said.
But Clark is concerned that this development will cost her and other ranchers in Clay County their livelihood.
Both Clark and Bezanson said city leaders should find alternatives however Schreiber also said about 10 to 15 other options have been considered such as groundwater from the Panhandle, water from Lake Texoma and other sources, and said Ringgold is the most economically viable water management strategy for Wichita Falls and the North Texas area.
According to studies, Lake Ringgold would have a storage capacity of 275,000-acre feet of water, slightly more than Lake Arrowhead.