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Rain buoys Abilene civic leaders' water plans

Fort Phantom Hill Reservoir north of Abilene has risen more than 17 feet in the past year.
Lake Fort Phantom Hill north of Abilene has risen more than 17 feet in the past year.
Dr. Norman Archibald’s heart, and hometown lake, are full today.
Archibald stood under a high-and-dry dock in early 2014.
Archibald, with Lake Fort Phantom Hill’s water several hundred yards in the distance, stood under a high-and-dry dock in early 2014.
As of this week, Archibald (’76 M.S.) – Abilene’s current mayor now in his fourth term of office – would need a flotation device or ladder to stand under the same dock where he was pictured for our Spring-Summer 2014 issue. At the time, Abilene Christian University’s hometown was wrestling with a growing water crisis brought on by a long period of sustained drought.
Today, Lake Fort Phantom Hill has filled for the first time since October 2007, a sight celebrated up and down the corridors of City Hall on Walnut Street.
“We are humbled and extraordinarily grateful our prayers for rain have been answered,” said Archibald. “It’s a great day in Abilene when Phantom is full. But we still have other lakes that need water as well, and can’t afford to lose our focus between periods of drought in West Texas.”
Because Abilene’s two other major public water supply lakes – Hubbard Creek Reservoir near Breckenridge (45.7 percent of capacity) and O.H. Ivie Reservoir near Ballinger (12.2 percent of capacity) lag well behind Phantom, the city’s plans to build $240 million Cedar Ridge Reservoir continue unabated. Once approved by state agencies and federal offices, Cedar Ridge would take three years to build and five years to fill, flooding tens of thousands of ranch land 40 miles north of the city.
Midland and San Angelo are allies with Abilene, having formed the West Texas Water Partnership to create synergy and share resources to help ensure water resources for future generations.
Archibald has committed his time as mayor to help Abilene continue to thrive as a West Texas center of higher education, energy exploration and other businesses.
“We’re trying to do what the forward-thinking people who built Phantom and Hubbard Creek did decades ago,” he told us in the 2014 story. “When you see a big city in Texas, it’s because they have a water source to support it.”
Revisit “High Hopes for H2O” in our Spring-Summer 2014 issue, which details the work civic leaders like Archibald are doing to serve citizens of West Texas: