July 25, 2014

Budget bill includes money for new lake in north-central Missouri

Some of the money in a budget bill sitting on the Governor’s desk could help advance the creation of a new lake in north-central Missouri.

This map shows where the new lake would go upon completion of the East Locust Creek Reservoir Project.  (image courtesy; John Holmes, Allstate Consultants)

This map shows where the new lake would go upon completion of the East Locust Creek Reservoir Project. (images courtesy; John Holmes, Allstate Consultants)

The East Locust Creek Water Reservoir Project has been ongoing for many years. It would create a 2,300 acre, 7 mile long lake north of Milan in Sullivan County. $4 million in HB 19 would go toward that project.

North Central Missouri Regional Water Commission General Manager Brad Scott says that reservoir is critically needed in a part of the state where wells can’t meet the water needs.

“There are a lot of folks suffering from a water shortage. We came extremely close – within days – of running out of water in certain communities in Missouri. Fortunately God smiled upon us and the heavens opened, and the drought was broken.”

If approved by the Governor, that money would go toward the acquisition of land. Scott says of the 4,300 total acres needed for the project about 2,200 has been acquired. He says that could propel the project to begin construction by 2017 and have the lake fully operational and providing water by 2019.

Scott says while the new lake would be a water supply first and foremost, it will also provide a new attraction in north-central Missouri.

“Much of the job creation that will occur will come from recreational use. This lake will be a public lake that will look and act like a private lake. There will be homes around it, we will sell easements across our property to the water for docks, we will sell dock licenses for folks who live on the water’s edge … I say and believe that it will fundamentally change the economy of north-central Missouri for 100 years.”

This map shows the same region before completion of the project.

This map shows the same region before completion of the project, which would inundate the community of Boynton.

Representative Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany) is one of the lawmakers that lobbied to get that money included in HB 19. He says the recreational benefits will be a good residual, but the real importance is the water supply for the farmers in the 10 counties it will serve.

“It’s necessary. From a survival standpoint and being able to retain the industry that they have and meet the demand that the municipalities have, it’s a must-have.”

The Water Commission testified to the House Budget Committee asking to receive $10 million from a proposed bonding initiative that was not approved by the legislature this year. Scott isn’t sure whether the Commission would ask for similar consideration if that proposal is raised again in the 2014 legislative session.

“We may have our finance plan laid in by that time. Certainly if we do not it would be a wonderful option for us to have.”

Governor Jay Nixon has not acted on HB 19. That proposal was just delivered to his office on Wednesday. Nixon has objected to another portion of the bill that would spend $38 million on a new state office building at the site of the decommissioned Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, but he has the option to strike out that portion of the bill rather than veto it entirely.