Then and Now: From Mules to Drones

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Freese and Nichols

Throughout our 125th anniversary year, our Then and Now series share historical photos that connect to the work we still do today. Here, we look at two innovative water supply solutions in the 1920s and today.

Then: A New Water Supply for Paris

After our founder, Maj. John Hawley, returned from military service in France in 1919, one of his first postwar assignments was to study and report on a new $1 million municipal water supply for Paris, Texas. After months of collecting and examining rainfall records and other data, Hawley recommended a dam and reservoir on Pine Creek to impound a surface water supply of 4 billion gallons, enough to meet the needs of present and future generations.

As planning progressed on the project, a young engineer from Paris joined Hawley’s consulting practice in 1922. Simon Freese detailed the reinforcing steel for the spillway abutments, then computed the reinforcing steel for the filter plant. Freese’s hometown reservoir would be the first of more than 200 dam and reservoir projects in his career.

Later that spring, the City of Paris approved the plans for the water supply system, which included the dam and reservoir, rapid sand filtration plant, elevated tank, and transmission pipeline. After a year of construction — including mule labor, pictured — the dam was finished by mid-1923. The new reservoir was named Lake Crook in honor of longtime Paris Mayor J.M. Crook.

Now: Texas’ First New Reservoir in 30 years

Today, just 23 miles west of Lake Crook, Freese and Nichols is helping develop Bois d’Arc Lake, which will be Texas’ first new major reservoir in nearly 30 years. The lake, on a tributary of the Red River, will cover 16,641 acres and supply water to 1.7 million residents of the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD). Freese and Nichols is serving as the overall program manager, designing major components for the reservoir, as well as providing extensive permitting and resident construction management services.

At the heart of the $1.6 billion project is a 236-MGD raw water pump station, pictured, with a footprint the size of a football field. This system is the first in Texas to combine low-flow reservoir releases within the pump station facility to meet all downstream environmental requirements, reducing capital and operations and maintenance costs. Freese and Nichols also designed the 2-mile-long, 90-foot-tall earthen dam; a treated water pump station; 210-MG terminal storage reservoir; and transmission pipelines.

Bois d’Arc Lake is expected to be completed in 2021 and start supplying water in 2022. When finished, the reservoir will initially provide up to 70 million gallons of drinking water per day for North Texas consumers.

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