February 04, 2023

Reservoir project watershed plan to include cultural analysis

At the Dec. 8 meeting of the Clarke County Reservoir Commission (CCRC), commission members received the latest updates on requirements for the watershed plan, funding, and the current status of West Lake.

HDR update

Mark Duben with HDR, Inc. updated the commission on new changes in the watershed plan as required by NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service) following a meeting with them in October. Previously, CCRC had to provide in their watershed plan to NRCS a program management agreement with a cultural agreement to be done later.

Now, however, NRCS wants the full cultural resources component to be incorporated into the watershed plan, which will include elements such as historical and archeological findings in the report.

Duben advised that the fieldwork required of those elements will not be able to be completed until the spring or possibly the summer. The commission will need to find an archeological subconsultant to bring on board the project, which they can either find themselves and use one of HDR’s.

Duben also informed the commission that the Corp wants to see the final wetland delineation work in the watershed plan, which will also require fieldwork that can’t be done until the growing season. With the new requirements needed for the plan, the commission is looking at at least next summer before it will be finished and ready to submit for review.

“We’ll get there…you’re playing on the court of all these federal agencies and all of their rules, and it’s likely going to take more time than you’d like. Be patient, it will be worth it,” said Duben.

There will be another meeting with NRCS on Dec. 20 that will involve multiple governmental agencies including the Corp, Fish and Wildlife, DNR, State Historic Preservation Officers. At that meeting, Duben said that there will be a discussion on scheduling of the project, as well as coordination and finalization of each agency’s degree of participation in the reservoir project.

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.

Funding

A request has been sent to Governor Kim Reynolds’ office to ask if the state can participate in the project using money available from the American Rescue Plan, in the amount of about $20 million. Currently, CCRC is looking to get about $61 million from NRCS, who will cost share various elements of the reservoir project; latest estimates for the project put it at $96 million.

CCRC is still looking to get about $61 million towards the reservoir; latest estimates put the project at $96 million.

The commission is working on getting a face-to-face meeting with Reynolds, and drafting a letter from the members voicing their assurance to the Governor about the commitment to the reservoir project. They are also seeking a meeting with Congressman-elect Zach Nunn, to have him come to Osceola and update him on the project.

“The ask of him, really, is to see if he could help tweak some of the treasury rules that we’ve already navigated through, just to make it easier for the state to participate,” said commission member Ty Wheeler.

Status of West Lake

Due to a lack of substantial rainfall the last few months, current water levels at West Lake are 50 inches below the spillway. CCRC member and Osceola Water Works Superintendent Brandon Patterson reported that he has contracted with a dive team to come assess both intake levels at West Lake, and possibly raise the lower one. However, that will likely not be completed until the spring. In the meantime, Water Works has moved to Level Two of their water conservation plan, and will be sending out information to consumers about the current situation.

Patterson reported that some people are already experiencing taste and odor issues with their drinking water. He also stated that contrary to what some people may think, boiling one’s water when manganese is present will concentrate the problem, not eliminate it.

“The issues that we’re experiencing, it’s pretty easy to justify why we’re all here working for the future,” said Patterson. “We need the supply, regardless of what people say, it is a true reality.”

On the topic of creative ideas, Wheeler said,

“We cannot recirculate waste water to West Lake…it’s not a thing, we can’t do that.”

Retirements

The board meeting was the last one for Clarke County Supervisor Larry Keller, who did not seek reelection, and for Duben, who is retiring.

“I’m honored to have worked through all that with you through the years,” said Duben.

“[I] really appreciate everything everyone has done…thank you all very much for your time,” said Keller.

Supervisor Austin Taylor will be taking Keller’s seat on the board, and HDR’s Mike Butterfield will take over Duben’s work with the commission.

The next reservoir meeting is planned for Jan. 26 in the Clarke County Development Corporation board room 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.