‘Water Activists’ Pushing Back Against Growth, Bad Planning

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 12.38.46 PM

File under: WTF were we thinking passing Prop 6?

Gary Cheatwood grew up near the town of Cuthand, in far northeast Texas, and he always found peace along the wooded banks of Little Mustang Creek. His grandfather had bought 100 acres in 1917 and now Gary’s family owns 600 acres of bottomland near where the creek’s clear waters meet the Sulphur River. He especially loves the woods around the creek – some 70 species of hardwood trees, including a massive Texas honey locust that ranks as official state champion. “This forest is not making money,” says Cheatwood, a retired surveyor and construction manager. “But a lot of things are more important than money. The trees give me pleasure.” Everything about the land pleases Cheatwood. Still wiry and lean at 75, he walks it every week, always wearing his standard outfit of lace-up work boots, jeans, plaid flannel shirt, and baseball cap. He collects finely crafted Caddo and Cherokee Indian arrowheads. In the spring, blue and yellow wildflowers bloom. He takes pleasure, too, in looking for rare creatures – the American burying beetle, a certain obscure shrew, even the eastern timber rattlesnake.

Yet as he stood on the creek bank this January, he knew his family could have their homestead taken by the state of Texas. If Texas Water Development Board planners have their way, sometime in the next 20 years or so Cheatwood’s land will disappear under Marvin Nichols Reservoir, a proposed 72,000-acre lake meant to provide water to the Dallas-Ft. Worth “Metroplex” 135 miles to the west. Some 4,000 of his neighbors (a few estimates go as high as 10,000 people) will also become refugees, driven off their lands, either for lake bottom or for the hundreds of thousands of acres to be taken as “mitigation.”

All over rural Texas, large swaths of farmland and ranchland and coastal estuaries face a similarly precarious future. A convergence of extended drought, supply-side water policy, and relentless economic and population growth has led to bitter fights over how water is to be used.

Full story — and you should read it — by James William Gibson at Earth Island Journal.

Leave a Reply