In February 2010, Lake Columbia, a plan to flood 10,000 acres of land in Cherokee and Smith counties for a recreation and water supply reservoir, celebrated a milestone in the decades-long endeavor. Now, members of the Angelina-Neches River Authority (ANRA ) say they have taken a major step backward.
Kelly Holcomb, ANRA general manager, said after releasing its initial environmental impact statement (EIS) to the public in January 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to redo the statement that took more than a decade to complete.
ANRA filed an application with the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct studies and develop the EIS in October 2000. The Corps began developing the draft EIS in 2005 and produced its findings in January 2010.
Some agencies with interests in the project, including the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and Environmental Protection Agency, delivered highly unfavorable opinions about the project.
“The resource agencies were not positive at all,” Holcomb said. “The EPA issued the EIS and project with an EU3 rating. ‘EU’ means ‘environmentally unsatisfactory’ and it’s the lowest of the low. The number three is also the lowest of the low. As part of the ranking, the EPA requested the Corps to do a new draft EIS.”
That request could cost ANRA up to $2.475 million dollars in addition to the $3 million that has already been spent during the past 11 years. Originally conceptualized in 1974, approximately $8 million total has been spent to date on the Lake Columbia project.