Editorial: Is Sandbranch about to get running water?

originally published on March 2016


Most of us who have been around Dallas County for a while thought we’d never see the day.

Could running tap water finally be on the way to the tiny Dallas County community of Sandbranch? We’ve seen promising signs this week that it just might.

Imagine waking up in the morning and not being able to take a shower or get a drink of water from the faucet. That’s what’s been happening in Sandbranch for more than a decade.

As The Dallas Morning News’ Tristan Hallman reported this week, a big stumbling block appears to have been cleared. The Federal Emergency Management Agency for years banned water infrastructure because Sandbranch, which has a 1 percent chance of flooding each year from the Trinity River, is in a flood plain. But the agency recently told Commissioner John Wiley Price and other county officials that it is not aware of any restrictions.

We’re not sure what caused the course correction, but we suspect the horrors of what’s happened in Flint, Mich., may have something to do with it. That much-publicized public-health crisis over tainted water was bad news for everybody involved, from the victims taken ill to government officials who failed to snap to the problem.

But there’s more good news. Because Sandbranch, an unincorporated community in the county’s southeastern corner, is now part of a development and water supply corporation, it can receive grant money for engineers and water infrastructure and to buy water from the city of Dallas. Federal grants could also be used to fix up properties.

Those are the most significant developments in 30 years.

Figuring out how to help Sandbranch has been a struggle. Only about 100 people still live there. The community once relied on well water, but the water became contaminated and the county helped relocate dozens of residents more than a decade ago.

Bringing water and sewer service to the area will cost millions, expenses that officials had been reluctant to pay. They’d been cautious about using taxpayer dollars there, especially while FEMA opposed the project.

But that was then and this is now, says County Judge Clay Jenkins. Having residents who live in our community in 2016 without the basic necessity of safe drinking water from the tap is “unacceptable.”

He’s right. We applaud Jenkins and the collaboration of federal, state and local officials who helped pull this together. As Jenkins points out, federal money goes to such projects around the country; securing some for Sandbranch is no different.

“We can’t pick which neighborhoods deserve access to clean water and which neighborhoods don’t,” he said.

It will still take months before the water is flowing, but in the meantime we applaud the progress.

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