A big idea for the Lake of the Ozarks comes with a big price tag: more than $150 million for a four-county sewer system.
The Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance (LOWA) presented the idea to state and county leaders at a meeting this week. Donna Swall, the executive director of LOWA, says the plans come from looking at decades of research and studies.
“All of them suggest we probably need to be considering a long term plan to protect the healthy lake that we do have today,” Swall said.
Swall says there are likely around 30,000 homes that use septic systems right now near the lake, although it’s hard to know the exact number. As the population of the area grows, there’s a problem.
“There’s almost no soil around the entire shore line conducive to septic,” Swall said.
While the $150 million cost may seem high, Swall points out the topography of the Ozarks present some extra challenges.
“This is not your typical city block to run a line down. I mean we’re talking lots of rock to run through and pumping uphill, I mean it’s a challenge but it’s doable,” Swall said.
Other major challenges will be getting the leaders of all four counties on the same page and trying to find a way to generate the money needed for the system. One idea on the revenue side is to propose a 1% sales tax in Camden, Miller, Morgan, and Benton Counties.
“Legislation is probably the next step, but in between that it will be the task force that we formed coming up with, ‘OK how do we want to go forward with this?” Swall said.
The legislation would be needed to create an entity among those four counties, which could then receive funding.
Swall says another concern in addition to the growing population is the fact that many baby boomers are expected to start using their former vacation homes as a primary residence, adding to the amount of waste water that needs to be addressed.
“We just realize that this is going to be a long term project and decades of work; and we just need to get the groundwork in and get started. Then when the baby boomers do start to move in we can handle the growth and maintain a healthy lake,” Swall said.
Swall says state and county leaders were interested enough to attend a meeting discussing the plan, but that ultimately this will be up to the citizens. She asks anyone that is interested to contact LOWA or their county leaders, and consider joining the task force for the plan.
Many of the communities that would be included in this regional sewer system actually already have their own small systems. Swall says they could be easily incorporated in a “hub and spoke” setup, which would latch them on to the new lines. The idea to create such a large district came on the recommendation of an engineering firm that said this would be the most cost-effective way to solve the potential sewage problem in the area of the lake. For more information, on the plan, visit LOWA’s website.