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Fate of Lake Ringgold in hands of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Lake Ringgold. It’s been talked about for about 70 years.

The project has been in the permit phase since 2019. Now, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will determine the fate of the reservoir.

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“Cautiously optimistic,” Wichita Falls Public Works Director Russell Schreiber said.

It’s what Schreiber tells people, calling Ringgold the number one goal of future water plans.

“We think we’ve identified all the possibilities at this point and we don’t know of any other low-hanging fruit, and we don’t know of any project that’s better than Lake Ringgold for us,” Schreiber said.

Along with the Indirect Potable Reuse Project in place, Ringgold is the city’s answer to avoiding another catastrophic water shortage the city and its 15 wholesale customers, such as small towns like Archer City and Olney, endured for several years a decade ago.

But opposers say there’s more to consider.

“To go back and start to keep hammering on a reservoir that is a 1950s technology, there are more creative things the city could do and less expensive,” Clay County rancher Deborah Clark said as she barreled along a dirt road in a MULE.

Clark has ranched in Clay County with her husband for 20 years practicing holistic planned grazing across 12 thousand acres. Ringgold would take out about 2,000 acres and require major changes in how they operate the ranch.

“Past that tree line where you can see some of the grass is again, it’s out there in the distance,” Clark said, gesturing off to the distance. “That would be just a small parcel that would that we’d have to completely redo grazing plan, business model, all that kind of thing.”

Also wipe out scares native tallgrass prairie ecosystem according to Texas Conservation Alliance’s Senior Policy Director Janice Bezanson.

“Only about 1% of that ecosystem is left in the country,” Bezanson said. “When you look at the actual supply and demand figures for Wichita Falls, this reservoir isn’t needed for water supply.”

The city projected water use for 2020 was 31,000 acre-feet when it actually fell a tad short of 15,000. The most the city used in the last 10 years was under 20,000 in 2018.

“We’ve stretched all of our existing supplies to the fullest potential. Yet we still show a deficit of water,” Schreiber said. “If it were old technology, why would North Texas Municipal Water District just complete like Bois D’Arc in Fannin County?”

The estimated storage for the proposed lake is 275,000 acre-feet. Compared to nearly 317,000 of Arrowhead and Kickapoo combined.

“This proposed reservoir is that it is subject to drought. One of the flaws in the planning for this reservoir,” Clark said.

“It’s the last reservoir site up here. It’s the only option we have,” Schreiber said.

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Now TCEQ Commissioners will determine the fate of a long-talked-about project among North Texans.

An administrative judge ruled in December 2023 on the recommendation to deny the permit. If the permit is denied, it would be the first time TCEQ denied a permit.

Markeshia Jackson will be at the hearing in Austin and will update us once a ruling is announced.

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