LADONIA, Texas — Ed Motley stands in the middle of a large field, about an hour and a half northeast of Dallas, and looks on as heavy machinery pours concrete and workers build up the dirt embankments of the 16,000-acre construction site.
If you’ve ever wondered what it looks like to build a lake, he says this is just a glimpse.
“They’ve been placing this concrete for about the last nine months,” said Motley, the project manager for Lake Ralph Hall.
Nine months is just a small paragraph in the story of Motley’s lake, though. The longtime engineer first heard the name Lake Ralph Hall back around the turn of the millennium when he was tapped by state leaders to build a new lake for the Upper Trinity Water District – the district serving some of the fastest growing portions of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Back in about the year 2000, Motley says leaders in the small community of Ladonia came to state leaders, including the late Rep. Ralph Hall, wanting to build a new lake to help bolster some interest in the town; the first new lake talked about in the state since Lake Ray Roberts filled in the early 1980s.
“Sometimes it feels likes it’s been yesterday,” said Motley, remembering those early meetings that developed out the idea. “It’s been a very interesting ride.”
The group certainly went big with the project and now, 23 years later, Motley said construction is moving along and his team hopes to start filling that new lake with water in the next couple of years, and that may not be a moment too soon.
Lake Ralph Hall is one of two new lakes being created right now to service the booming population in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The other, Lake Bois D’Arc, is already filling with water right now.
“It’s badly needed for our water supply,” said Motley.
Most of Texas’s major lakes are built, not naturally occurring, to give the people of the state the water they need to call it home. Motley said that even in the early 2000s it was clear that the water supply would need to grow if it was going to quench the thirst of the increasing population. Since then, the projections of growth have only gotten more intense for North Texas and the rest of the state.
“A hundred thousand people moving to the area every year, a hundred thousand people, and they’re not bringing water with them,” said Motley.
So the state’s water districts will likely have to build more lakes to keep up, and that’s more on top of those two going up near Ladonia.
Jason Pierce, a spokesperson for the Upper Trinity Water District, said he’s heard about the "new lake" conversation happening across the Lone Star State as growth seems to be coming from every direction. Even with Lake Ralph Hall soon easing their burden, he said even his district is having to think farther out already.
“It will get us until about the mid-2040s and then we will need an additional water supply to meet the growing needs of our service area,” said Pierce.
It starts, though, with those two new lakes in North Texas. From there, we’ll have to see how the population grows and if the next legacy of another engineer like Motley is set to begin.
“There’s so many aspects to building a lake. It’s one of those career things that you only get to do once in your life,” said Motley.
With completion of his lake now in sight, he says it’s a larger mark than he ever imagined it would be when this all began, and one he couldn’t leave at a better time.