The Sulphur River watershed in northeast Texas is considered a major potential water supply source for the growing North and Northeast Texas regions. Historically, the Sulphur River has been subject to channelization practices intended to increase agricultural development. Two critical issues associated with the development of the basin as a reliable water supply source include excess sediment loading resulting from these past channelization and agricultural activities and the need to avoid/mitigate environmental impacts associated with future reservoir development. Applying a multi-disciplined planning approach, this effort explores opportunities to deal simultaneously with both issues through the implementation of a watershed-scale program of Best Management Practices (BMPs) as a component of regional water supply development.
Sediment management BMPs were synthesized in the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) and found that the subbasins were experiencing the highest sediment yields under existing conditions. Sediment loads at the watershed level were predicted to be reduced by 28 to 31 percent depending on how many BMPs were synthesized. A reduction in watershed sediment loading would be beneficial not only to regional water supplies, but also to aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Integration of sediment management programs with the mitigation efforts typically associated with water resources development would improve ecological functions concurrently with providing a more reliable water supply.
This approach typifies the principles of FNI Water™, allowing us to imbed project goals related to ecosystem restoration within the overarching objective of water supply development and contributing significantly to watershed protection and sustainable water project development.
The study is cost-shared 50 percent/50 percent between the Federal Government (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and the Sulphur River Basin Authority (SRBA). Freese and Nichols assisted SRBA and the USACE in receiving a high priority for Federal funding by developing a program of studies and execution protocol that was aggressively supported by the State of Texas and the regional USACE offices.