Acting with Environmental Responsibility

Acting with Environmental Responsibility:

While Bois d’Arc Lake will provide an invaluable water source for nearly two million North Texans, the lake will cover thousands of acres of natural habitat. To counteract the loss of habitat and impact on some local streams, NTMWD is completing one of the largest environmental improvement efforts in the country.

The District is restoring:

  • More than 17,000 acres on several sites, including:
    • Approximately 15,000 acres of Riverby Ranch
    • About 1,900 acres at the Upper Bois d’Arc Lake Creek site

Resource Environmental Solutions (RES), a national expert in environmental restoration, was hired to return these acres to their natural, pre-agricultural condition and to maintain, measure and monitor its success until NTMWD’s permit requirements are met. That could take up to 20 years. To accomplish their work, RES hired a number of local residents to work on the project, and the project team has worked closely with officials in Fannin County.

Read more about this local collaboration.

Status of Environmental Improvements:

Environmental enhancements at the two locations began in August of 2018 and are on track to wrap up completely by 2023.

Work at Riverby Ranch:

Riverby Ranch is a 15,000-acre former ranch located about seven miles upstream, or northeast, of Bois d’Arc Lake. In addition to planting/creating of millions of trees, thousands of acres of grassland and thousands of acres of wetlands at Riverby Ranch, all stream restoration associated with Bois d’Arc Lake is taking place on this site.

Improvements are complete at Willow Branch Creek, which runs through the center of the Riverby Ranch area. The creek carries two-thirds of all water that falls within the ranch’s watershed and is the heartbeat of the local ecosystem.

By the end of 2020, teams had restored:

  • six miles of the main Willow Branch channel
  • 11 miles of Willow Branch Creek tributaries

The river had been previously channeled, or straightened, to move water off of the land so cotton could be grown. NTMWD’s mission was to return this river to its original, healthy state. This included restoring 1) its wavy, winding configuration and 2) its healthy river profile (the shape of the creek from the side). Here are the key steps:

  1. Identify where the creek ran before it was channelized and choose how to block off or fill the old channel.
  2. Decide on the best river profile and how to add back curves to slow water flow and improve water quality.
  3. Dig out the new riverbed in the identified location.
  4. Strategically place and cover natural materials to help the restored creek bends hold their shape. This includes hay bales (made of native grass), tree trunks, rock, anti-erosion netting and live stakes (local tree cuttings that will grow into full trees).
  5. Plant trees roughly 100 feet on either side of the new creek to keep heavy rains from eroding its banks.

Additionally, some additional, minor improvements are being made to Ragsdale Creek, which also runs across a part of the ranch. The restoration work on Willow and Ragsdale Creeks will have two major benefits. It will:

  • Provide much better quality water to the Red River—benefitting the watershed.
  • Hold rain in the local water table longer to nourish the new wetlands, trees, bushes and grassland elsewhere on the Riverby Ranch site. A healthy river system is key to making sure all other improvements are successful.
Pictures of Willow Branch Creek

Work at Upper Bois d’Arc Mitigation Area

The Upper Bois d’Arc mitigation area contains about just under 1,900-acres downstream of Bois d’Arc Lake, near the city of Bonham. This mitigation site includes primarily the planting of trees – scheduled from Winter 2021 to the completion of environmental improvements in 2023.

Photos of Mitigation Work Near Bois d'Arc Lake: