Two Republican legislators are raising a ruckus about a proposed lake near Osceola, arguing developers have changed plans to try to escape the restrictions of Iowa’s new property rights law.
Representative Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican from Hiawatha, accuses the lake’s developers of "conspiring" with federal officials to expand the size of the lake so it can be used for recreation, all the while arguing the lake will be used solely for drinking water. The law, enacted by legislators in July of last year over Governor Vilsack’s veto, allows local governments to condemn private property for lakes that are to provide drinking water.
"New standards have been brought into the mix…and now after the eminent domain law has been passed, the lake is now bigger than the lake project that was proposed before, the only difference is this bigger lake is being built for just drinking water," Kaufmann says. "I would categorize that, personally, as an end around our eminent domain law."
Kaufmann accuses officials in the Natural Resource Conservation Service of helping developers come up with new standards so the lake could be built. "That’s over the line, in my opinion, both from a perspective of a state legislator and also from somebody that’s trying to give a voice to these land owners who are going to lose their property," Kaufmann says.
According to Kaufmann, the local property owners will have a hard time waging a legal fight against the government. "But let’s face it, if it’s a few farmers versus the government and it’s a battle of legal bills and the ability to hire a lawyer, I guarantee you the government’s going to win that battle," Kaufmann says. "…This is a test case and it has statewide implications."
Kaufmann, however, concedes the lake project likely falls within Iowa’s new property rights law which does allow lakes to be built for drinking water. "I think we need to tighten that so we don’t have creativity and innovation getting involved in what is real need and what is not," he says.
Kaufmann and a Republican lawmaker from Winterset went to the site this morning to hold a news conference with the landowners who stand to lose their property if the lake’s built.
A spokesman for the Natural Resource Conservative Service was not immediately available for comment.