The group, a subsidiary of Tomlin Investments, has entered into an agreement with Angelina and Neches River Authority, giving Tomlin Infrastructure exclusive rights to acquire 47 percent of the water rights to Lake Columbia, a $330 million regional water supply project.
The agreement enables the creation of a partnership that would permit construction to begin on the lake, which has been planned since the mid-70s, according to a news release.
Once completed, the lake is projected to cover 10,000 surface acres and be about 15 miles long, with the dam site about 5 miles southeast of Jacksonville. Its anticipated yield is about 85,500 acre-feet annually for use by water supply customers.
Tomlin Infrastructure Group's water rights, which entail 34,202 acre-feet, could supply enough water for 150,000 households annually in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, according to a news release.
“With water becoming an increasingly scarce commodity throughout the state, any new source coming on line will be in high demand,” Fred Brown, Tomlin Infrastructure Group managing partner, said in a news release. “Our preference would be seeing the water becoming available for household use. However, there are multiple East Texas industrial users that may also have use for the water.”
He said that includes a Rusk County refinery project, which will be on a site off Texas Highway 323, 1.25 miles southeast of New London.
Plans for the project are to produce 30,000 barrels per day of light sweet crude and produce gasoline and diesel fuel.
Brown said the public-private infrastructure partnership now allows the environmental process and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permit process to continue to move forward because there is funding to back it up. The 404 permit is needed for construction activities to begin.
“There's more need for public-private partnerships today to help fund infrastructure…,” Brown said via phone Monday. “ANRA's exhausted all financing mechanisms and is thinking outside the box to move forward.”
The next step, he said, is to continue the permitting process.
Tomlin's announcement comes shortly after Angelina and Neches River Authority General Manager Kelley Holcomb told a crowd in Jacksonville that ANRA was trying to leverage private dollars to fund interim project activities.
Earlier this month, he discussed efforts made so far, as well as the future of Lake Columbia.
Holcomb has said a public hearing was held in March 2010 about the project's environmental impact statement — a document that details the Lake Columbia proposal and its impact on things such as cultural resources, agriculture and homes. It also serves as a tool for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when it makes a decision on a 404 permit.
But after the public hearing and public comment period, state agencies and a couple of federal agencies commented in great detail about the document. As a result, the corps of engineers asked ANRA to look at the document again.
ANRA then went through consultations with attorneys and consulting engineers and looked at what it would take to get the construction permit if there was no money limit.
Holcomb has said ANRA talked with the original participants, and eventually decided to take the 47 percent of unallocated water and begin marketing it to entities that are big water users, such as Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
Then in August, the ANRA board approved a contract to grant a broker the right to market Lake Columbia water to the ultimate end user, Holcomb said earlier this month.
Lake Columbia was designated as a water resource and recreational lake per a bill from the Texas Legislature, Brown said. According to a news release, the project, which is part of the Mud Creek watershed, won't have hydroelectric power generating capacity and will begin in Smith County, southeast of Tyler below Lake Tyler and Lake Tyler East, then go south into Cherokee County toward New Summerfield and Jacksonville. ANRA began planning the proposed project in 1978, and the state issued the water rights permit to ANRA in 1985, according to a news release. The lake, formerly known as Lake Eastex was re-named Lake Columbia to honor the NASA Columbia Shuttle.