City of Dallas Files Lawsuit to Protect Region's Water Plan

The City of Dallas has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The City's lawsuit seeks to vacate a decision of the FWS establishing the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge and to obtain immediate injunctive relief prohibiting FSW from taking any further action to establish the refuge.

The lawsuit contends that FWS' actions approving the refuge violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) because it failed to adequately consider the environmental impact of designating a 25,281-acre site within Anderson and Cherokee counties as a refuge in the same area as the planned Fastrill Reservoir. In the lawsuit, the City of Dallas specifically asserts that FWS violated the NEPA by:

  1. failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the refuge,
  2. failing to consider any alternatives when establishing the refuge that would allow the construction of Fastrill Reservoir,
  3. failing to assess the cumulative environmental impacts on the city and other areas of Texas when establishing the refuge, and
  4. failing to coordinate with federal, state, and local agencies. If the City of Dallas cannot develop Fastrill Reservoir, it will be forced to seek other water sources and more heavily rely on existing water sources. Both of these alternatives will result in significant environmental impacts which FWS did not consider.

In addition, the City of Dallas maintains that FWS' actions violate the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by unlawfully infringing upon the traditional state and local role of water and land-use planning.

The city, through Dallas Water Utilities (DWU), provides water and wastewater services to approximately 2.3 million people in Dallas and 27 nearby cities. DWU's service area is projected to almost double in population during the next 50 years. To meet the increased demand for water that will result, DWU, the Texas Water Development Board and other regional water authorities have planned for years to develop Fastrill Reservoir.

Fastrill Reservoir will provide a cost-effective water supply for the growth of the Dallas area. Because FWS's decision puts the city's water plan at risk, the City of Dallas has filed the lawsuit to protect the long-term welfare of the Dallas area.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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