September 27, 2022

Clarke County Reservoir Commission receives updated funding information

At the August 4 meeting of the Clarke County Reservoir Commission (CCRC), project coordinator Dave Beck brought good news to the commission about federal funding for the reservoir project.

Beck, along with commission members Ty Wheeler for the City of Osceola and Brandon Patterson for Osceola Water Board, had a meeting with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on June 30, which they went into believing they could get a maximum of $25 million in funding towards construction costs through the small watershed program. The trio presented the NRCS with information received from HDR, Inc., at their June 23 CCRC meeting, and reviewed the possible alternatives with them. Expecting it to take at least a month to hear back from the NRCS, answers started coming back within about a week.

“There is no cap,” said Beck of the answer they received.

Assuming that the reservoir project is for agricultural water, which Beck said is essentially a water supply for populations under 50,000 and in rural areas, CCRC is looking at $61 million from the NRCS’ small watershed program instead of the originally thought $25 million. NRCS will cost share 75% on the dam and reservoir, including elements such as the spillway, raw water intake, and pipelines. Cost sharing on the technical assistance part - engineering, design, etc. - will be cost shared 100% by the NRCS.

The NRCS will not cost share on any new roadways, as they consider that a land rights issue.

Reservoir projected costs

The cost for the reservoir project has gone up significantly over the years, increasing from a previously estimated $30 million to $96 million. In addition to the $61 million from the NRCS, the commission is also looking to get $20 million from the State of Iowa in COVID relief money from the same pool of money used to fund the ‘Field of Dreams’ stadium. In total, the commission could be looking at over $80 million in state and federal grants towards the new reservoir.

“This is the most confident I have been in the last ten years that we will deliver the reservoir project. Things are looking very good. If we can get a few more details nailed down, the next few years will be very exciting,” Wheeler told the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune.

Project plan update

Mark Duben with HDR, Inc. of Des Moines, updated the commission on the continuing development of the watershed plan report, stating that most of what remained is the environmental-type reports. Those look at things such as endangered species, wetlands, and historical sites; such reports had been completed and reviewed eleven years ago, but required updating for new requirements and to include proposed alternatives. The progress of those reports had been temporarily suspended as costs, feasibility and funding for the reservoir were developed, but it has been picked back up “full-speed ahead.”

The plan updates are estimated to be finished in the first quarter of 2023, at which point they will go off to the NRCS and other environmental agencies for review. Once a plan is approved and funding is acquired, the design and bidding can begin, and finally construction can start. The current estimate for the reservoir to be completed is 2027.

“That whole years’ [long] effort of planning to get to the point that you got a developed project, a sound budget, hopefully a sound funding package, that will be firmed up in the next year to carry the design and building,” said Duben.

New SIRWA letter

As previously reported, on June 16, the Clarke County Reservoir Commission received a letter from Southern Iowa Rural Water Association’s (SIRWA) general counsel which stated that during their regular June board meeting, the SIRWA Board of Directors had discussed:

“...the present and potential future status of the CCRC lake project…At this point in time, both SIRWA and Creston City Waterworks are self-sustaining in a manner that makes construction of the CCRC lake project an unwise use of funds for SIRWA, particularly when SIRWA would gain no significant short or long-term benefit to its own members from the project…Ultimately, SIRWA’s Board has determined that while SIRWA intends to remain a sponsor of CCRC for the time being, SIRWA’s fiduciary duty to its own members must carry the day. Such duty mandates that SIRWA cease further contributions to the CCRC lake project.”

The letter was discussed at the June CCRC meeting, at which time SIRWA co-general manager and CCRC member Jeff Rice said that SIRWA was not out of the project, but that they needed to see some updated project figures. He and SIRWA co-general manager Brenda Standley both stated that SIRWA was open to talks going forward.

On June 27, the commission received a second letter from SIRWA general counsel which read in part:

“SIRWA is now giving consideration to the CCRC lake project and may be open to the possibility of making additional financial contribution to the project, provided such contribution is more commensurate and equitable with reasonably expected contributions from all sources…as always, any commitment of funds will require approval of the SIRWA Board of Directors.”

A third letter was received on August 2, which stated that following a special SIRWA meeting of the board on July 28, SIRWA’s board had resolved that SIRWA supports construction of the CCRC lake project in it’s currently planned capacity, SIRWA supports moving forward with completion of the watershed work, and SIRWA will contribute additional funds towards project costs. At this time due to lack of information available to CCRC in relation to grants or potential other funding, the specific amount cannot be determined until a later date.

“I’m glad that SIRWA is committed to this project with us. They’re going to be a big beneficiary to this,” said CCRC member Bill Trickey.

Reservoir

Osceola’s current water source is that of West Lake; SIRWA also purchases water from the City of Osceola. West Lake has a current safe withdrawal capacity of 0.8 million gallons per day (MGD), with a future safe withdrawal capacity predicated at 0.7 MGD. Patterson, superintendent for Osceola Water Works, had previously stated that an average of 1.3 MGD goes through the Osceola treatment plant. The preliminary design for the new reservoir, Site 4B, will have a safe withdrawal capacity of 2.0 MGD, and will be used to help assist West Lake. The projected daily withdrawal demand in 20 years is 2.8 MGD.

The next reservoir meeting is planned for September 22 in the Clarke County Development Corporation board room, 115 East Washington, at 9:30 a.m.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.