Jack Z. Smith Special Projects Reporter
The Tarrant Regional Water District, which provides water for 1.8 million people in North Central Texas, has beefed up its top management ranks to better administer an operation that has steadily expanded over the years. Dan Buhman, a civil engineer and hydrologist whose Coppell-based consulting firm has worked extensively with the district, has joined the water supply agency as assistant general manager. At 37, Buhman will be the young guy and third in rank in a management triumvirate that includes General Manager Jim Oliver, 64, and Deputy General Manager Alan Thomas, 62, whose title was upgraded from assistant general manager with Buhman coming on board.
Oliver said the water district now has about 250 employees, nearly double the staff count when he joined the agency 30 years ago. In that time, the size, scope and complexity of the district’s operations have substantially expanded, he said. The addition of Buhman will enable the district to take some of the workload off Thomas, who has spent nearly 40 years with the agency. Buhman should be “a good fit” for the district’s management team, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering and a background in planning for water-supply needs as a longtime consultant to the district, Oliver said. “We’ve worked with him for years and he’s done a lot of our water supply planning,” Oliver said. Buhman’s work has included a concept study for the huge $2.3 billion Integrated Pipeline Project that will allow the the water district to substantially boost the amount of water supplied from its big Richland-Chambers and Cedar Creek reservoirs in East Texas by an estimated 197 million gallons per day. Thomas, who has a strong finance background, will have the substantial task of overseeing the Integrated Pipeline Project, Oliver said. The addition of Buhman also strengthens the district’s management capabilities for the future, Oliver said. “I don’t have any definite plans to retire soon and neither does Alan, but we’re both in our 60s,” Oliver said. “It’s time to start looking at the next generation of management.”
Buhman will be paid $180,000 annually. Thomas’ yearly compensation is $214,323 and Oliver draws $304,990. Buhman, who will report directly to Thomas, will oversee these areas of the district’s operation: planning, project management, records management, real property, environmental and information technology. Thomas will oversee engineering, finance, operations and administrative services, which includes human resources, risk management, facility management and maintenance. Oliver said the Fort Worth-based district’s operations and water pipeline network have expanded along with the dramatic population growth in North Central Texas.
The district is teaming up with Dallas Water Utilities to do the Integrated Pipeline Project and is a key local partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the $909.9 million Trinity Uptown flood control and economic development project, which aims to transform an old industrial area just north of downtown Fort Worth into an alluring residential and commercial waterfront development. The district, as the operator of four reservoirs, is not only a huge supplier of raw water to North Central Texas cities, including Fort Worth and Arlington, but also is responsible for managing 27 miles of Trinity River floodway and levees in the Fort Worth area and has constructed 150 miles of pipeline. It helped create the 400-acre Eagle Mountain Park in northwest Tarrant County and has played a major role in developing the extensive Trinity Trails system for recreational use by the public.
The district also has greatly expanded its efforts to promote water conservation and has instituted a large water re-use project in East Texas that naturally filters and treats Trinity River water through wetlands and puts it back into the Richland-Chambers reservoir for future use. The district’s general fund and revenue budgets total about $207 million for the 2014 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The district has a 2-cent property tax rate but draws most of its revenue from sales of raw water. The district has received more than $300 million in revenues from natural gas and oil royalties and lease bonuses since 2003, primarily from the Barnett Shale; that income peaked at more than $68 million in the 2008 fiscal year.