While approximately 11 people spoke during the public hearing on the Squaw Creek Watershed project, the crowd's reaction to the project was mixed.
Clarke County Reservoir Commission (CCRC) held a public hearing on the project Dec. 6 at Clarke County Fairgrounds Events Center building. Approximately 100 people were in attendance.
Before the public hearing started, Sandy Kale, the commission's chairperson for Osceola Water Board said, "We all know on this board that Osceola is in dire need of an alternate water source. Many of us have worked on this project since 2000 or when we actually started the project in 2004. The basic thing is we need an alternate water source.The one we have is too small. Right now, it's being taxed to its limits. We are now 52 inches down, and last month we averaged 1.189 million gallons a day. Our financial consultants have told us we can build this lake. Our engineers have provided a very good plan for us. It took a lot of work to do the plan. We made changes, and changes and changes to comply with every regulation that we were aware of and that we can change. We have done those plans."
The Squaw Creek Watershed project provides a water supply for Osceola and Southern Iowa Rural Water Association (SIRWA) with an 816-acre lake that provides 2.2 million gallons of water per day.
About 2,046 acres will be acquired for lake, buffer areas and required wildlife habitat.
Forty-seven sediment basins are planned upstream and adjacent to the project's permanent pool.
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 tax (LOST).
Approximately $32.9 million of the funding is planned for. This is about 93 percent of the funding.
David W. Beck, executive director of Southern Iowa Resource Conservation and Development Area, said all dollar amounts, funding sources and their statuses are subject to change as the project proceeds.
There have been many concerns about the project increasing property taxes.
During the meeting, a question was asked about taxing local residents.
"Well, we don't know that yet," Beck said.
Osceola Water Superintendent Brandon Patterson said he originally didn't intend on speaking at the public hearing until he arrived at the meeting.
Patterson said lives in the Washington Township area of Clarke County, and he is concerned with implementing water-conservation efforts for the county.
"If we do continue to see the lake level go down," he said, "which is our concern with the lack of snow that's predicted and the rainfall in the spring, we're going to have to make some tough decisions, which will greatly impact the town and the industry. And me, being the water superintendent, that is the last thing I really want to be faced with."
Patterson said supports the need for an additional water source at Squaw Creek.
"I just think that it's important we work together as a community and try to find another water source, so in the future, our kids and my son doesn't have to worry about the water supply, and also, we can continue to see Osceola grow," Patterson said.
Nelson Fry spoke against the Squaw Creek project during the meeting.
Fry said he's lived in Osceola all of his life and is a business owner. He said he didn't deny the fact the town needs more water. However, he doesn't agree with how the project transpired.
"I'm not really in favor of paying property taxes, but that is going to happen," Fry said. "There's no way that you can build that lake without our property taxes eventually going up."
He said there's been an "insensitive" way the subject of acquiring the agricultural land has transpired with the project.
"It's kind of been the attitude that 'we don't care because we're going to do it anyway. And, if you don't want to sell it, we're going to take it.' I don't think that's right," Fry said.
After the public hearing was over, the commission unanimously approved the resolution authorizing public improvement (Squaw Creek Watershed) that may require the acquisition of agricultural land.
According to Beck, many questions were asked during the public hearing, and the commission does want to answer them.
"The reservoir commission members realize that some people are truly seeking a specific answer," Beck said. "We intend to recreate the questions, by speaker, from the tape of the hearing. We will develop answers to those questions. At this time, we have not decided how to handle the distribution of those questions and answers, but most likely will discuss them at the next regular CCRC meeting."