During Clarke County Resevoir Commission’s (CCRC) meeting Thursday morning, there was a public outcry for the expansion of the existing 100-acre Arbor Valley Lake in Clarke County to be a feasible water-source alternative.
CCRC’s proposed site for a lake as a surface drinking-water source is located in the Squaw Creek Watershed, which is located northwest of Osceola.
Approximately 20 people attended the CCRC meeting.
The total project cost for the reservoir in the Squaw Creek Watershed is estimated at $35.5 million. Funding the project includes many sources, especially local-option sales and services tax (LOSST).
As for concerns with Osceola’s current water supply at West Lake, it is 43 inches down.
Kathy Kelly spoke in favor of Arbor Valley and discussed a petition published in the Oct. 2 edition of The Advertiser that featured 255 out of 298 signatures obtained.
Kelly said the intention of the petition ad was to make their collective voices heard.
“Many in this county strongly disagree with the CCRC’s adamant refusal to seriously consider an Arbor Valley expansion,” she said. “The reasons are enumerated in the ad. Taxpayers and water patrons want this alternative properly evaluated by study, not just discarded on the basis of one or a few persons uninformed opinion. They want it proved to be, or not to be, a viable and potentially less expensive and less invasive alternative. We also would call you to task to keep your evident promises of no increase of property taxes and no increase water rates to pay for a reservoir.”
Kelly said only a preliminary study of the potential for expansion at Arbor Valley has been completed, and CCRC is refusing to consider this a viable alternative.
According to Kelly, Arbor Valley would be less expensive, as well as closer access to existing Osceola businesses including desirable access with the location along Highway 34 for future lake-related businesses and recreational amenities.
The petition ad states, Arbor Valley, concerning cheaper overall cost, would nullify the bond commitment for $13 million made by the Clarke County Supervisors to the CCRC. This is $10 million in revenue bonds and $3 million in general-obligation bonds.
David W. Beck, executive director of Southern Iowa Resource Conservation and Development Area, had a chance to respond during the meeting.
Beck said he’s had discussions with the members of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.
With concerns to funding, he’s talked to state and corporate officials.
“We’ve helped them understand how they can carry out a bond process for water supply, should they choose to do that,” Beck said. “They haven’t done that. CCRC hasn’t officially approached the board of supervisors on bonds.”
He said the public should understand revenue bonds, should the county choose to issue them, would be paid with revenues from the local-options sales tax.
“And, believe me, we’ve met with bondsmen and the local bankers, and they’re not going to let enough bonds get sold that we can’t pay with expected revenues,” Beck said. “They’re wanting 120 percent. … Basically, they’re only willing to loan about 80 percent of what our actual revenue stream would demonstrate that we should be able to pay for. It’s down to, essentially, 13 million dollars worth of revenue bonds. So, I believe we’re plenty safe. I don’t think that if the county issues revenue bonds it’s going to affect anybody’s property tax in anyway whatsoever. That’s not the intent, at all.”
According to a financial-plan status report made available at the meeting, $32.7 million of the project’s funding has been planned for. This is 92 percent of the funding.
Other possible sources include corporate sponsorships, stretching the installation period in order to accumulate cash from LOSST, general-obligation bonds, Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) and private donations.
Why Squaw Creek?
According to Beck, the community made the decision between 10 and 12 years ago not to work in the Whitebreast Watershed, which is where Arbor Valley is located.
He cited reports from 1991 and 1996 that are commonly known as site-inventory reports. Water supply sites at Whitebreast and Squaw Creek were studied and Squaw Creek was the recommendation for the reservoir site.
Beck said another feasibility study on Arbor Valley could cost between $500,000 and $1 million. He made the recommendation to the CCRC board to stay on task with the current Squaw Creek Watershed project.
Sandy Kale, chairperson of Osceola Water Board, said she was on the board in 1996 when a study was done and the area of Whitebreast was ruled out.
She said the reasons were it didn’t have the sufficient depth and ratio, and it couldn’t supply the amount of water needed at the time.
“If we changed our mind and went to another location now, we would have to start over. Period,” Kale said. “The site would have to be completely studied to see what it would supply. … We would just be starting from scratch again.”
CCRC agreed to look at the Arbor Valley Lake information, but continue with progress on the current project.
The next CCRC meeting is 9 a.m. Nov. 8.