Long-range planning for your future

For over two decades, development efforts for the new Clarke County Reservoir have been a heated point of discussion. Where, when, why, and how much will it cost are all questions that predictably come up each time the project is discussed. And while answers have been provided through public forums, formal proposals and presentations, discussions throughout city council meetings, legislation, and more, confusion on many details persist.

clarke county reservoir water supplu osceola iowa

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In an hour-long CCDC CEO Luncheon in the ballroom at Lakeside Casino last Wednesday, David Beck, Project Coordinator for the Clarke County Reservoir Commission, addressed much of the specifics of the reservoir project and shed additional light on some of the misconceptions surrounding the origins, the status, and the future of the reservoir.

Meeting the demand of your growing community

In the mid 1990’s a study was commissioned to evaluate the viability of a reservoir to replace West Lake. While, at that time, West Lake’s resources were sufficient, growth models and prospective business development showed the 306 acre lake would soon reach the limits of its efficiency, and its effectiveness, as well as the reliability to service the area.

“Today, if we were to see a dry month-or-two like we did in 2012, West Lake wouldn’t be able to support the demand for drinking water,” Beck pointed out to the group, “Actions have been taken, from raising West Lake’s levels to restricting usage, but that’s just band-aids on an ever-growing issue.”

The original Clarke County Reservoir Commission (created in 2002) contracted with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), reviewing many options for the placement of a new reservoir. Ultimately the NRCS focused their attention on an 816-acre solution located northwest of Osceola. This area would not only meet the demands of a growing Clarke County, but also provide additional water resources for nine surrounding counties.

Staying true to the mission / finding financing

Originally, financing for the reservoir centered on procuring Federal financial assistance, but much of the requirements for Federal funding addressed more than the functional needs of the community.

“After all, the commission’s original purpose for the reservoir was to help support and provide safe, ample, drinking water for our community,” said Beck.

Federal funding would have required development of the reservoir to serve multiple purposes including flood control and recreation. To The Commission, these concepts were logistically and financially unrealistic. Therefore, anticipating the Federal programs most likely to be available to Clarke County’s project would be defunded by Congress, The Commission decided to target alternative financing options and subsequently dropped the recreation component of the plan. In September of 2007 a 1% local option sales tax was passed in Osceola and Woodburn. Murray adopted the tax in a subsequent election. That 1% provides over $725,000 per year for funding of the reservoir project. In a recent recall election the measure passed with over 85% of the vote in favor of the project. With the community on board as well as additional financial support from Lakeside Casino and other local sources, The Commission soon had the capital required to fund the project and start the acquisition of land for development.

Working with your neighbors

Obviously, building a reservoir takes land. As a matter of fact, the Clarke County reservoir, as planned, will encompass over 2,066 acres of land. Those acres will include the reservoir itself, at 816 acres, and the rest, mandated by county, state, and federal guidelines, will include the dam on the east side of the reservoir; a buffer area that completely surrounds the water; and road right-of-way additions for traffic and modifications around the reservoir. Additional land is also required for wildlife habitat mitigation.

The Reservoir Commission has been diligently working with local residents and landowners, negotiating and purchasing the land that is required throughout the planned area. As it stands, the commission owns 368 acres. By October of 2015, they will have negotiated and purchased an additional 542, and will add on another 355 acres by the end of the year. Projections are showing that by the end of February of 2016 The Commission will own 1,248 acres of the 2,066 (more than 60%) needed for the project.

Throughout the process, residents and landowners with questions have come forth to discuss the project through meetings, public forums, and other means. From land valuation questions to relocation cost issues, The Commission has been able to help everyone that has asked.

“Fair rates and marketable values have been negotiated in all of the land purchases,” Beck stated during Wednesday’s presentation, “In many cases {the landowners} end up receiving more than 100% assessed value for their land, as well as moving and relocation costs.”

While negotiations for the land needed for the project continue, The Commission is aware of the personal value and attachment owners have to their land. So, on August 27th of this year, The Commission contracted with engineering firm, HDR, to study the planned reservoir pool size, elevations, and water yield possibilities using the current dam location but shortening the westward stretch of the reservoir through Osage Street and 180th Avenue. This report should be available to The Commission in December of 2015.

Recent legislation concerning the use of eminent domain changed the law concerning the use of eminent domain for water supply reservoirs only in Clarke County. As it has always been, the use of eminent domain is being held as a last resort for the project.

Beck closed the meeting stating, “As it stands, land acquisition is ongoing and we will continue to move forward with the project as planned.”

For more information or if you have questions concerning the planned Clarke County Reservoir, Contact: David Beck, Clarke County Reservoir Commission, Project Coordinator, phone: 641-782-4033, email: [email protected]

The Clarke County Reservoir Commission:

Clarke County Board of Supervisors, City of Osceola, City of Murray, City of Woodburn, Osceola Water Board, Southern Iowa Rural Water Association and a member at Large. (as of Summer 2014)