The Iowa Rural Water Association says a move in the legislature to restrict local officials’ authority to seize property for big projects could be a big impediment for public water projects.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision sparked concerns nationwide about the power cities and counties have to take property for economic development projects and turn the land over to private developers. Emily Piper of the Iowa Rural Water Association says it’s clear that local governments here in Iowa haven’t abused their power the seize property for economic development. Piper cites a southwest Iowa public water project as an example of a project that could have been endangered if the bill pending in the legislature were to become law.
She says the restrictions and additional hurdles put on anyone trying to use impoundments for drinking water systems would be of concern statewide, not just in southern Iowa, though Piper says it’s a particular concern there. Southern Iowa’s been dry in recent years and a plan to create a man-made lake has had backers and opponents since it came up. The ruling that caught the nation’s attention was the “Kelo case,” a rebuilding project in a small town in Connecticut where some unwilling sellers had to leave their homes. Piper says Iowa’s current law is working.
“Our main goal is to make sure that there (are) no additional hurdles or hoops that you have to go through to be able to do certain types of activities that clearly fit within the realm of public use,” Piper says.
The other issue the group’s watching carefully is the move to mandate a cleanup of streams and rivers in Iowa. Piper says their biggest concern is over the high cost and the lack of certainty that cities will see any real improvement in their water quality.