It was a day that had been decades in the making.
During a Sept. 11 Clarke County Reservoir Commission (CCRC) meeting, the CCRC unanimously approved the purchase of land from Linda Abbott and Rick Oshel for the reservoir project in Clarke County.
“We did get it done and it is a red-letter day for us. Our number one purchase and Rick has always wanted to be the first one,” said CCRC member Sandy Kale. “And, I congratulate him and thank him and his family from the deepest part of our hearts. This is a big day for us.”
The sale was for 11.38 acres, and the purchase price of the property was $22,760.
The land in the purchase agreement is in parcel “A” located in a portion of the southwest quarter of section 20, township 73 north, range 26.
Dave Beck, project coordinator for the CCRC’s reservoir project, said the land has been surveyed and is in the upper end of the reservoir.
“Linda and Rick were very good to work with,” he said. “Like we said, it took us awhile to get the surveyors out there for a variety of reasons, but we got it done.”
About the project
The CCRC’s reservoir project could provide a water supply for Osceola and Southern Iowa Rural Water Association (SIRWA) with an 816-acre lake, which could provide 2.2 million gallons of water per day.
West Lake, the current water source, doesn’t meet the needs of Clarke County and SIRWA.
The total project cost for the reservoir in the CCRC’s water supply project is estimated at $37.6 million. Funding for the project includes many sources, especially funding from the local-option sales tax.
“My sister’s and my intentions are to take the money that we’re getting from the sale of the property and leverage it into upland treatment above the lake,” said Oshel. “That’s our intention. I mean, it might not be dollar for dollar, but that’s our intention is to spend that money on upland treatment above the lake on our farm.”
While this first sale went fairly easy, not all landowners in the reservoir project area have been in favor of the CCRC’s project and it has played out in court.
In an April 8 ruling, Judge Sherman W. Phipps of the Fifth Judicial District of Iowa ruled in favor of CCRC’s ongoing watershed project, confirming it is for a public use, public purpose or public improvement as defined in the Iowa Code.
Therefore, CCRC may use the power of declaratory judgment and eminent domain in the reservoir project.
Declaratory judgment is a court review for acquiring land for a public project. It authorizes CCRC to purchase land from voluntary sellers and exercise eminent domain for involuntary sellers within the area of the watershed project.
Eminent domain is the government’s power to take private property for public use by a state.
An appeal from local landowners was filed May 6 in Clarke County Courthouse on the judge’s ruling in the CCRC court case. The case could end up before the Iowa Supreme Court.
However, the CCRC has the power to purchase land during the appeal process.
At the end of the meeting, many CCRC members expressed their gratitude toward Abbott and Oshel.
“I’d just like to thank Linda and Rick for stepping up and being the first ones to get us started on our next phase. So, we’ll be forever grateful. Thank you,” said Jack Cooley, CCRC member.
CCRC member Dan McIntosh added, “If you’d talk to us years and years ago about that, I wasn’t sure this day would ever come. But, it finally came.”