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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Lake project discussed

Monday, April 24, 2006

Building a lake in Cherokee County may be possible but there are considerable hurdles to overcome, the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors was told at the Tuesday meeting.

"Most of the time, the only real show stopper is cost," Michael Sotak, one of three representatives of Olsson Associates present at the meeting, told the supervisors. Also present from the Omaha based engineering firm were Jeff Thorn and Paul Nolan.

Sotak said that over the last 16 years, the firm has been involved in about 120 reservoir and lake projects. He said the time from start of planning to start of construction varies widely. One project has been planned since 1988 and a construction date has not been set while planning on another project was started a few weeks ago and construction will start in a few weeks.

Sotak explained that the difference is in how many different public entities, all with different objectives, need to come together in financing a project.

"We cannot wait for 30 years for this to happen," Terry Graybill, supervisor, said. Graybill noted that the county has lost 800 people in the last five years and there won't be enough people left in 30 years.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a federal agency, is undertaking a county-wide site inventory for water supply and recreation in Cherokee County. Sotak noted that the NRCS does not get involved in lake projects of the size being considered.

Graybill said that Mill Creek is a dream site, providing a potential lake of 1,600 acres, about half the size of Storm Lake. "Grey Creek wouldn't be big enough. It would make only about a 200 acre lake," Graybill said.

Graybill asked Sotak whether the fact that a Mill Creek Lake would drain from a large area would create an insurmountable problem. Graybill said the drainage area to lake surface area is about 100 to 1.

Sotak said that the ideal ratio is about 30 to one. In the case of a large drainage area, there would probably need to be a series of basins, possibly with the first basin being a wetland, a second basin being a fishing area and the third one being the recreation and residential area.

Linda Burkhart, director of the Sanford Museum, noted that there are important archeological sites along Mill Creek. She pointed out that the NRCS is conducting a feasibility study for free and the supervisors are considering paying for a study by a private firm.

David Phipps, a property owner in the area that would be affected by a proposed lake, spoke in opposition to the planned lake. Phipps provided each of the supervisors with a packet of information which included correspondence from an archeologist from the State Historic Preservation Office to the state conservationist.

The correspondence noted that the site of a prehistoric village, known as the Phipps Site is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Sotak said that a landmark designation does not necessarily prevent a project of this type from occurring. It is up to the state conservationist to determine what measures need to be taken, selected from a variety of options such as documentation and moving of artifacts. He said there might be grant funds available for such preservation measures.

Another item in Phipps' packet was a recent report on an action in the state senate. A bill passed in the state senate limits a government entity's right to use eminent domain for economic development projects. It specifically prohibits using eminent domain for developing a lake unless the lake is needed to provide drinking water.

The bill now goes to the house of representatives where its status is uncertain.

Representatives of Olsson Associates will return at a later meeting of the supervisors.

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