Property owners who could lose their farms and homes to a lake development in southern Iowa say other property owners in Iowa could face the same dilemma. Three Republican legislators arranged to meet with the group of Clarke County landowners at the statehouse Monday.
Representative Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, says a 2006 law was designed to restrict this kind of government condemnation of land for lakes.
"The law of this state that passed overwhelmingly said that only drinking water needs are a reason to condemn people’s land, not a 300 foot beach with a bathhouse," Kauffman said. "If we allow Clarke County to get around this with a loophole, then what are we going to say to the next county and the next county after that?"
A local reservoir commission wants to create a lake in northwest Clarke County. Landowners opposed to the idea say the needs for drinking water are overstated and the lake will be used for recreational purposes. Kathy Kelly of rural Osceola stands to lose 40 acres of pasture and timber to the lake project.
"It’s like terrorism in your own backyard from your community members," Kelly said.
Dan McIntosh, the general manager of Southern Iowa Rural Water Association, is also treasurer of the Clarke County Reservoir Commission. According to McIntosh, the water supply in the Osceola area is nearly tapped out and the lake is needed to meet growing demand.
"I agree 100 percent with the eminent domain law. If they’re going to take that land and sell it to a big business or something like that, it shouldn’t happen. That’s not what we’re trying to do," McIntosh said. "We’re trying to build a lake here for the good of everybody."
The proposed reservoir would cover approximately 2200 acres. Last week, the Clarke County Reservoir Commission voted to proceed with condemnation of the property that would immediately surround and be submerged by the lake.