WACO-Plans on as many as 22 water reservoir projects involving more than 380 square miles of private property have Texas Farm Bureau urging lawmakers to consider the ramifications.

Citing water shortages brought on by an anticipated doubling of the Texas population in the next 50 years, the Texas Water Development Board has issued a recommendation that at least 17 sites be designated for future reservoir development.

Much of the land would be acquired through easement or direct negotiations, but reports indicate that more than 244,000 acres of property within those designated reservoir regions could be condemned by eminent domain proceedings.

"Texas Farm Bureau policy clearly opposes these large reservoir projects," said State Legislative Director Billy Howe. "Not only will designating these reservoir lands cause a major loss to the farm and ranch lands of Texas, but they will claim large portions of the tax base for rural communities."

By designating the properties for the reservoir projects now, often years before any actual construction takes place, it would be "a defacto taking of the private property because it will put a cloud on the title of that land that will diminish its value," Howe said.

Howe testified before the Senate Natural Resources Committee in Austin on March 6 in opposition to the reservoir plans contained in Senate Bill 3. He asked that the legislature consider the following when addressing the water plan:

* The entity intending to build the reservoir should officially declare its intentions within two years of designating a water plan project site.

* The entity should make a good faith effort to purchase development rights of the property within four years of its declaration of intent.

* Statute should guarantee the right of the property owner to participate in government programs that are consistent with the current use of the property, such as conservation practices or land management programs.

State Rep. Robby Cook (D-Eagle Lake) filed HB 2470, with support from Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) and Rep. Steven Frost (D-Atlanta), to address many of the concerns Howe raised, including additional portions that address the condemnation process and establish relief mechanisms for both property owners and local taxing entities should these water projects moves forward.

Proposed reservoir sites include: Lower Bois d'Arc, Ralph Hall, Marvin Nichols, Fastrill, Tehuacana Creek, Bedias, Brushy Creek, Little River I and II, Palmetto Bend I and II, Goldthwaite Channel, Wheeler Branch, Cedar Ridge, Cuero II, Parkhouse I and II, Wilson Hollow, Jim Bertram I and II, Nueces, Ringgold and Muenster.