At the August 4 meeting of the Clarke County Reservoir Commission (CCRC), project coordinator Dave Beck brought good news to the commission regarding federal funding for the reservoir project.
Beck, along with commission members Ty Wheeler for the Town of Osceola and Brandon Patterson for the Osceola Water Board, had a meeting with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on June 30, at the during which they thought they could get a maximum of $25 million. in financing construction costs under the small watershed program. The trio presented the information received from HDR, Inc. to NRCS at their June 23 CCRC meeting and discussed possible alternatives with them. Expecting it to take at least a month to hear back from the NRCS, responses started coming in within a week or so.
“There’s no cap,” Beck said of the response they received.
Assuming the reservoir project is for agricultural water, which Beck says is essentially water supply for populations under 50,000 and in rural areas, CPAB is considering $61 million from the NRCS Small Watershed Program instead of the original $25 million. NRCS will cost share 75% on the dam and reservoir, including items such as the spillway, raw water intake and pipelines. Participation in the costs of the technical assistance part – engineering, design, etc. – will be covered 100% by the NRCS.
NRCS will not share the cost of new roads as they consider this to be a land rights issue.
Estimated tank costs
The cost of the reservoir project has increased significantly over the years, from an earlier estimate of $30 million to $96 million. In addition to the $61 million from NRCS, the commission is also seeking $20 million from the State of Iowa in COVID relief funds from the same pool of money used to fund the ‘Field of Dreams’ stadium. “. In total, the commission could consider more than $80 million in state and federal grants for the new reservoir.
“This is the greatest confidence I have had in the last ten years for the completion of the reservoir project. Things are looking very good. If we can get a few more details, the next few years will be very exciting. Wheeler told the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune.
Project plan update
Mark Duben of HDR, Inc. of Des Moines updated the commission on the ongoing development of the watershed plan report, saying most of what remained were environmental-type reports. These cover things like endangered species, wetlands and historic sites; such reports had been completed and revised eleven years ago, but needed to be updated to reflect new requirements and to include proposed alternatives. Progress on those reports had been temporarily put on hold as the reservoir’s costs, feasibility and financing were developed, but it was resumed “at full speed.”
Updates to the plan are expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2023, at which time they will be forwarded to NRCS and other environmental agencies for review. Once a plan is approved and funding is secured, design and tendering can begin, and finally construction can begin. The current estimate for the reservoir to be completed is 2027.
“These Whole Years” [long] planning effort to get to the point where you have a developed project, a solid budget, hopefully a solid funding package, which will be firmed up next year to complete the design and build,” Duben said.
New SIRWA letter
As previously reported, on June 16, the Clarke County Reservoir Commission received a letter from the General Counsel of the Southern Iowa Rural Water Association (SIRWA) indicating that at the regular June Board meeting , the SIRWA Board discussed:
“…the current and potential future status of the CCRC Lake Project…At present, SIRWA and Creston City Waterworks are self-sufficient in a manner that makes construction of the CCRC Lake Project an unwise use of funds to SIRWA, particularly where SIRWA would derive no significant short or long term benefit for its own members from the project…Ultimately, the SIRWA Board of Directors determined that, although SIRWA intended to remain a sponsor of CCRC at this time, SIRWA’s fiduciary duty to its own members must prevail, and such a duty compels SIRWA to cease any further contribution to the Lake CCRC project.
The letter was discussed at the June CCRC meeting, where SIRWA co-CEO and CCRC member Jeff Rice said that SIRWA was not out of the project, but that they had need to see updated numbers on the project. He and SIRWA co-CEO Brenda Standley both said SIRWA was open to talks in the future.
On June 27, the commission received a second letter from SIRWA’s General Counsel which stated in part:
“SIRWA is now considering the Lake CCRC Project and may be open to the possibility of making an additional financial contribution to the Project, provided that such contribution is more proportionate and equitable with reasonably expected contributions from all sources… as always, any commitment of funds will require the approval of the SIRWA Board of Directors.
A third letter was received on August 2, which indicated that following a special meeting of the SIRWA board of directors on July 28, the SIRWA board had decided that SIRWA supported the construction of the Lake CCRC at its currently planned capacity, SIRWA was supporting the continued completion of the work on the watershed, and SIRWA will provide additional funds to cover the costs of the project. At this time, due to the lack of information available to CPAB regarding grants or other potential funding, the specific amount cannot be determined until a later date.
“I am happy that SIRWA is committed to this project with us. They are going to be a big beneficiary,” said CPAB member Bill Trickey.
Osceola’s current water source is West Lake; SIRWA also buys water from the town of Osceola. West Lake has a current safe withdrawal capacity of 0.8 million gallons per day (MGD), with future safe withdrawal capacity projected at 0.7 MGD. Patterson, superintendent of Osceola Water Works, previously said an average of 1.3 MGD passes through the Osceola treatment plant. The preliminary design of the new reservoir, Site 4B, will have a safe withdrawal capacity of 2.0 MGD and will be used to assist West Lake. The projected daily withdrawal demand in 20 years is 2.8 MGD.
The next tank meeting is scheduled for Sept. 22 in the Clarke County Development Corporation Board Room, 115 East Washington, at 9:30 a.m.