As questions continue to circulate concerning the Clarke County Reservoir project, recent discussions have brought to light much of the hard work being put in by the CCRC. While the commission continues working to build the new reservoir, additional pressures have risen concerning immediate water supplies, quality and safety. But as the questions get answered, we wanted to make sure provided a summary of the activities around the development and a “Current status” for everyone involved.

In the fall of 2012, the commission notified affected landowners and conducted a public hearing that they intended to construct an 816-acre lake in the Squaw Creek Watershed in northwest Clarke County. The reservoir would provide 2.2 million gallons of water per day. Since settling on this location, acquiring the necessary land is underway. There have been challenges.

clarke county reservoir progress

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In July 2015, the governor signed legislation that contained law specific only to Clarke County for the use of eminent domain for the purpose of constructing water supply reservoirs. As a result, the CCRC decided to review a reduced-size reservoir using the Squaw Creek dam location. The Commission specifically wanted to avoid some of the landowners most opposed to the project if possible.

In the latest CCRC meeting, it was determined that the smaller reservoir plan is not an acceptable alternative to the original plan. The smaller reservoir would cost about $22 million more than the current plan and provide about half as much water supply.

Some citizens at the meeting voiced that they would like the commission to consider Arbor Valley Lake instead. This is not a new request. Essentially, the community ruled out a water supply reservoir in the area that is now home to Arbor Valley over 25 years ago.

Planning for a new water supply reservoir has been going on at least since 1990. At that time, the Osceola Water Board asked the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service) to conduct a “high cut” study of potential sites for a new water supply reservoir. In the “reconnaissance report” prepared by SCS, three sites in the White Breast Watershed and three sites in the Squaw Creek Watershed were identified as having potential to be developed for a new water supply. The sites in the White Breast Watershed, including one that would be an “expanded” Arbor Valley location, were more susceptible to potential contamination from cargo spills from I-35, US 34, and the BNSF railroad. More intensive crop production throughout that watershed would also affect the quality of water in ways that are likely to increase the costs of water treatment.   These factors led the Osceola Water Board to concentrate their planning efforts in the Squaw Creek Watershed northwest of Osceola.

Many years of discussions and comprehensive planning for a new water supply reservoir followed. Private engineers and government agencies were consulted. At least seven different reservoir sites were considered in the Squaw Creek Watershed, as well as pipelines to Des Moines and to Lake Rathbun that would require purchase of water from those water utilities, and construction of deep wells with necessary water treatment they would require. These options did not meet the benefits that the current plan provides and most were significantly more expensive.

Osceola’s Water Superintendent, Brandon Patterson, stressed the importance of finalizing the location for a new reservoir as soon as possible. Patterson says the Squaw Creek location would offer better water treatment options that would improve water quality and ensure the health of Clarke County’s residents.

For the time being, the CCRC plans to move forward with the current plan that they believe best serves Clarke County as a whole.

For more information concerning the Clarke County Reservoir Project, contact David Beck, Clarke County Reservoir Commission, Project Coordinator, phone: 641-782-4033, email: [email protected]