By Dave Beck
Clarke County Reservoir Commission
The Clarke County community needs an expanded water supply for the area’s future growth and economic development. Its existing water source, West Lake, is rapidly aging and will not meet modern water supply needs much longer. The ongoing drought has increased people’s awareness of this long-standing problem.
Community leaders have been working on improving the water supply since at least the early 1990s. The Clarke County Reservoir Commission (CCRC) was formed in 2002 to plan and carry out a project that will provide a safe and adequate drinking water supply for many years into the future.
The CCRC used information that was developed prior to its existence, including a reconnaissance report prepared by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to focus its efforts. This report identified three potential water supply sites in the Squaw Creek watershed and three potential sites in the White Breast watershed. Of the three sites in the White Breast watershed, only one, called WB-1, could meet current water needs. It could not meet the total water demand projected for the future.
All the Squaw Creek sites could meet the total water supply need, as well as supplemental water supply needs. In addition, the NRCS identified the potential for hazardous material contamination from accidental spills on Highway 34 and from the railroad as “quite high” for site WB-1. One known archeological site was identified as being near the WB-1 structure site. Therefore, CCRC asked the NRCS in 2004 to develop a plan for a water supply project in the Squaw Creek watershed.
Since that time, many other possible alternative water sources have been considered. A representative sample includes seven different reservoir sites in the Squaw Creek watershed in northwest Clarke County, building a pipeline and purchasing water from Des Moines Water Works, building a pipeline and purchasing water from Rathbun Regional Water Association and ground water well fields.
The CCRC is now approaching the end of a complex financial planning and legal process that will allow it to start purchasing land for an 816-acre reservoir in the Squaw Creek watershed near the Coyote Canyon Wildlife area. Land purchases should start in 2013.
Recent discussions have emerged in the community about possibly expanding the privately owned Arbor Valley Lake for a public water supply. Very little technical information exists at this time for such a proposal.
However, any expanded Arbor Valley Lake would require a new dam to be built at a location almost identical to the White Breast Site 1, having the same problems as described above. A new extensive planning process will need to occur, taking additional years and many thousands of dollars, before the technical, financial, social, and legal feasibility of an expanded Arbor Valley Lake is known.
Community support for the current project was demonstrated recently by the dedication of an additional $2,000,000 in casino revenues to the project by the city of Osceola, Osceola Water Board and Clarke County Development Corporation.
The Clarke County Water Supply project has been through a long and rigorous planning process. It has been reviewed technically, environmentally and economically and met relevant federal, state and local requirements. The Clarke County Reservoir Commission has demonstrated extraordinary due diligence in evaluating alternatives for a public water supply.