Supporting the Sand Branch Community

Since 2016, Attorney Mark McPherson has represented Mount Zion Baptist Church and the people of Sandbranch pro bono.

Sandbranch is the only unincorporated settlement and most impoverished area in Dallas County. As such, it has no elected officials and few basic services. Specifically, it has no existing water infrastructure, and the well-water has been excessively contaminated (and, therefore, non-potable) for over three decades. Roughly a quarter of the population has no access to running water or sewer services, and residents must make daily trips to other areas in the county to bring water back home. Dallas, the fifth-wealthiest city in the nation, is just 14 miles away.

One of the major roadblocks has been the classification of Sandbranch as a floodplain, despite the fact that it only floods once per century. Over the last few decades, many have attempted to bring these vital resources to the Sandbranch community, but all have failed. In 2016, Mr. McPherson discovered the plight of Sandbranch residents and decided to volunteer his legal services.

Fighting for the Future of Sandbranch

With Mr. McPherson's support, the community formed the Sandbranch Development and Water Supply Corp., organizing multiple meetings with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and representatives from 11 different agencies, including the EPA, FEMA, and USDA. They discussed plans to bring water to the community, repair homes, and remove hazards. Mr. McPherson organized volunteer efforts and private donations to support these massive projects, but county officials were leaning toward relocating residents instead of improving the community.

On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, Sandbranch community leaders held a press conference to respond to Dallas County’s recent announcement that it was preparing a voluntary relocation program. Residents were vehemently opposed to this announcement, especially considering those who accepted the buy-out received no more than a few thousand dollars each. A similar buy-out initiative took place in 2005, and residents received only $350 a piece for mortgage-free homes.

Despite the countermeasures of Dallas County, the efforts of Mr. McPherson and the Sandbranch Development and Water Supply Corp. resulted in a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office to set up a water and sewer system in Sandbranch. Currently, Mr. McPherson is working to secure a $6.5 million grant, and the first installment should arrive in 2021.

Mr. McPherson intervened in this crisis because he knew his combined background in real estate, business, and environmental law gave him the tools he needed to make a difference where no one else could. News stations around the world have broadcasted his pro bono work in eight different languages, and we hope this international attention will provide the support we need to permanently change the lives of the Sandbranch community.

To learn more about this four-year process, visit here.

For support from an environmental attorney who is dedicated to supporting communities throughout Texas, contact McPherson Law Firm PLLC at (214) 722-7096 today.

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