by Kirby Gibbs
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It turns out that a choice piece of land here in East Texas is at the center of a lawsuit between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the City of Dallas . That lawsuit has already been thrown out of court twice. Even so, Dallas is not giving up.
It seems as though everyone wants a piece of the Neches River. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated a portion of the river to be a National Wildlife Refuge. Many East Texans, like Richard Donovan, the Director of the Texas Conservation Alliance, believe this is a great move, but one city begs to differ.
"Just so happens that the City of Dallas wanted to build Fastrill Reservoir in the same place that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife designated a Wildlife Refuge", said Donovan.
According to Chris Bowers, the 1st Assistant City Attorney for City of Dallas, "[They] believe that the federal government did not conduct the appropriate studies required by law nor had it worked with local and state officials as required by law and that's why the State Water Development Board and the City of Dallas filed suit."
Both parties believe they need the area more than the other and will continue to fight for it.
"What Dallas is looking for is a win win situation, where we can build our lake and not only provide water but benefits to the immediate area of recreation opportunities, tourism, and business that always comes with a lake", said Bowers to KTRE.
Richard Donovan said, "the refuge would be like an incubator, I like to think of it, where birds and animals would multiply and spread out into the adjoining countryside and keep a healthy population of birds and animals in East Texas."
One of the concerns some East Texans have is that Dallas is wanting to take over the land to build a resevoir so that they can supply water to their city, but they don't plan on needing it until year 2060. Donovan says that "Dallas is the most greedy consumer of water than any city of the State" and that if they would just impliment City wide initiatives to conserve the water they already have, they wouldn't even need the lake.
In Dallas' defense, Bowers says, they are aware of the water that goes wasted in Dallas; however, they have been working to make better the issue. The fact still remains, says Bower, that Dallas is at a natural disadvantage because of the drought they are always experiencing.
Another concern is for the people who currently hold deeds to the land surrounding the Neches River area. According to Donovan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reserve 25,000 acres for the refuge while Dallas would take up to 38,000 acres. He says, the U.S. Wildlife would only accept land from willing sellers. Property owners would be given the choice to sell or donate their land for the Wildlife Refuge. If the owner wanted to keep their land they would be allowed to do so. The City of Dallas, on the other hand, would take land by emminent domain in order to build the Fastrill Resevoir.
Dallas says they plan on pursuing the land they need buy doing so fairly. They will offer the value of the property to the owner. if the land owner does not agree with the offered amount, they will allow the people of the court to decide on a fair amount.