Water Over Land--Property Owners Fight the State's Water Proposal

A growing need for water in the Dallas Metroplex may end up costing some East Texans their homes and businesses.

If approved by the state, the Marvin Nichols reservoir and dam will be built off the Sulphur River, between Mt. Pleasant and Clarksville. Water from the dam would then be sent to Dallas through underground pipelines. For some business leaders, the project means economic growth. For others, it means their family farms and their means of survival will be destroyed.

Max and Shirley Shumake are the sixth generation in their family to live and raise cattle by the river. But if the Marvin Nichols reservoir is approved, they'll lose 797 acres of land.

"They're destroying our property, the wildlife, the fishing and our way of making a living," said Shirley Monday afternoon.

"We've lived here all of our lives," adds Max. "People from Dallas-Fort Worth and from all over the country come down here to hunt and fish. This land is part of our past. I guess our heritage would be the biggest thing they would take from us."

The Shumake's land along with 72,000 acres of farm land, timber wood and ranches would be gone. However, businesses in the area see the project as a potential boon for the local economy.

"Lakes here are already bringing people in at different times," says Shelton West, manager of a Mount Pleasant El Chico's. "They fish, they camp, and I really think this project would boost business for all the local restaurants."

Linda Norris who owns Kasseigh's Kollage, a store in Mt. Pleasant, says she sympathizes with everyone who could lose their property, but believes the project is about progress and moving the community forward.

If the lake is added, it's possible new housing developments and recreational businesses will move in nearby, says Mike Huddleston, president of the Sulphur River Basin Authority.

For now, the project is still up for debate. If approved, 80 % of the dam's water would go to Dallas, 20 % would stay in East Texas.