By Michael S. Patterson
Osceola’s current water supply is the roughly 310-acre West Lake, which, even in this period of extended drought, continues to exceed current needs. Current intentions are to continue maintaining and utilizing West Lake as a companion water supply to the proposed new 816-acre water reservoir, thus making a total water supply of 1,126 acres.
This equates to over a 360 percent increase of the current supply. Eminent domain, the legal governmental taking of private property, is intended only for satisfying a public need.
Does anyone really believe that increasing the potable water supply by over 360 percent meets the litmus test of a qualifying public need? I submit that it does not, and instead represents an overreaching and unsubstantiated governmental want.
We all struggle in our daily lives to discern the distinction between want and need, often crafting the most inventive ways of transfiguring a desired superfluous want into an absolute essential necessity.
We have all been guilty of this, and realize there is always an ultimate price to be paid for such poorly justified self-deceptions. Although, sometimes guilty of playing these mind games to justify actions in our personal lives, we should definitely not be playing any such games when enacting the powers of eminent domain to strip private landowners of their family homes and properties.
A new 816-acre water reservoir project is proposed for northwest Clarke County in the Squaw Creek watershed. To advance this project, on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Clarke County Fairgrounds Event Center, a public hearing will be held, and then a simple vote of the Clarke County Reservoir Commission will occur approving the resolution authorizing the forced taking of up to 2,046-acres of privately-owned agricultural land and homes.
The intended action should be of great concern to all property owners. To be sure, eminent domain has been utilized before by the county for clearly recognizable and justifiable public needs, but always with a narrow and concise focus, so as not to go beyond the bounds of satisfying the intended public need.
We are about to set a new precedent in our implementation of eminent domain in Clarke County, and in so doing, will succeed in significantly weakening property rights for all future generations. I invite you to attend the hearing and witness history in the making.