WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The Wichita Falls Director of Public Works said a planned protest of a water rights permit for a new reservoir in Clay County will delay that project, and increase the costs.
Texas Conservation Alliance officials said it will contest that permit for building Lake Ringgold.
Opponents are questioning the need for the reservoir and also point to new estimates of its long-term costs far above the city estimate, but city officials said the longer the delay the more risks another drought will come before its finished.
“There’s now enough water already developed to meet future needs with a safety factor,” Texas Conservation Alliance Executive Director Janice Bezanson said.
Bezanson said her group will oppose the city’s request for a permit for the water rights, which is now drafted and awaiting approval of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“We don’t need somebody from Austin coming up here and telling the city of Wichita Falls that we don’t need the water they didn’t live through the drought we lived through in 2011 through 2015,” Director of Public Works Russell Schreiber said.
They said the city has more than adequate water sources for the future with the water reuse pipeline adding more since the drought.
“The city already has developed over 43,000 acre-feet of water a year, the projection for what is going to be demanded way in the future 2070 is only 32,000 [acre-feet],” Bezanson said.
However, Schreiber disagrees, and he said there is a need right now for a reservoir.
“The plan shows right now we need roughly 2500 acre-feet immediately and put that in perspective, that’s somewhere around 18 or 19 billion gallons of water,” Schreiber said.
Schreiber said the water plan now shows that by 2070, the city will be 11,000 acre-feet short of water.
The permit for the water rights could be issued as early as next month if no one contests it but the initial $300 million estimates have risen to $443 million according to the water plan.
“The old number that everybody looks to in the previous feasibility study, that number did not include the raw water pump stations or the intake or the 20 something miles of raw water pipeline,” Schreiber said.
Bezanson said not only will this project cost Clay County ranchers their livelihood, but Wichita Falls residents will feel the financial burden in years to come, $34 million for the first 20 years to be exact.
“This $34 million is like $225 for every man, woman and child in this service area,” Bezanson said.
“Our future water supply sits in Lake Ringgold,” Schreiber said.
Anyone wanting to challenge the permit has until the first week of March to do so.