Following its official groundbreaking this week, work is set to begin on Ralph Hall Lake, the newest man-made reservoir that is expected to provide up to 54 million gallons of water per day for Denton and Collin counties by 2026.

Named after late U.S. Congressman Ralph M. Hall, the $490 million reservoir project will store 180,000 acre-feet of water. Ralph Hall Lake is needed since North Texas’ population is expected to increase nearly fivefold in the next 50 years.

“Today’s celebration acknowledges 20 years of planning, permitting and design activities coupled with the hard work of district board members, staff and consultants — past and present — who made today’s groundbreaking possible,” said Larry N. Patterson, executive director of the Upper Trinity Regional Water District, to the crowd gathered Wednesday at the site of the future lake in southeast Fannin County. “Lake Ralph Hall will be able to provide up to 54 million gallons per day of water to meet the future water needs of communities in Denton, Collin and Fannin counties.”

The additional money will provide the Leon Hurse Dam, named for Ladonia’s former mayor and a longtime visionary of the project, a 2½-mile state highway bridge, a raw water pump station, a 32-mile raw water pipeline, a maintenance facility, and upgrades to state and county roads.

Jan Cooper, Ladonia’s mayor, said Ralph Hall Lake began as an idea shared at a community meeting chaired by Hurse in 1991. The idea was a way to improve Ladonia’s community. It was Hall that suggested to find a partnership to help build the lake.

“Our lake team met with Congressman Ralph Hall who suggested we find a partner to help build the lake,” Cooper told the crowd. “That partner was the Upper Trinity Regional Water District, and today, I have no words to express how grateful the town of Ladonia is that the dam is being named after our former mayor, Leon Hurse.”

Denton County Judge Andy Eads has been a supporter of Ralph Hall Lake for over a decade. Eads said several Denton County officials opposed the project, but he was glad officials eventually approved it.

“Thank you for this partnership,” Eads told the crowd. “What an honor for all the employees, all the appointees, all the officials, residents, everyone here in presence that has proceeded to make this happen.”

Committee members who contributed to the project also put together a commemorative puzzle to celebrate the groundbreaking.

“This puzzle represents all its members and customers of Upper Trinity and our partners related to the counties,” Patterson told the crowd.

Cooper told the crowd it was an ambitious project and a challenge for the small town of Ladonia to take on.

“We’ll strive to make it a place that attracts all of those that come from everywhere,” Copper told the crowd. “I want to thank you [Upper Trinity board] for your commitment to our partnership. Thank you to our city council for sharing this vision.”

Ralph Hall Lake will be the first lake built in nearly 30 years. Upper Trinity provides water for around 325,000 residents in North Texas. The lake will be located on the North Sulphur River in southeast Fannin County, north of Ladonia.