Local News

Landowners resistant to proposed watershed project

An informational meeting at the Davenport Community Center quickly turned south Thursday night as a crowd of irate landowners voiced complaint about a proposed LBNRD dam project. With all 100 seats filled in the packed meeting place, the naysayers left little room for any possible proponents of the resurrected plan from 1979.

Last fall, the Little Blue Natural Resources District board of directors authorized the reevaluation of a 34-year old plan for a dam to be built two miles north of Davenport. Attributed benefits primarily include groundwater recharge and flood control.

Using a power point presentation of maps and facts Thursday night, LBNRD manager Mike Onnen described declining groundwater concerns in the Big Sandy watershed. “We’re about six feet lower today than we were in 1974,” he said, “so you can see that we are looking at alternatives to help support our groundwater aquifer.”

Landowners, however, weren’t buying it. “We’ve been in a drought,” said Loma Grone who says a constructed lake will destroy her family’s farming business. “It will rain again, and there will be a natural recharge. There’s no emergency here.”

Mike Sotak, engineer at the Omaha consulting firm, FYRA Engineering, explained the two  options proposed for the dam. The study from 1979 was updated only for new precipitation and groundwater well records.

The first option features a dam used mainly for flood control and groundwater recharge. The second option includes plans for recreational use as well as flood control and groundwater recharge. The recreational option would cost a total of $23.2 million. The flood control and groundwater recharge option would cost $11.8 million.

Others scoffed at the idea of flood control as the Big Sandy has not breached its banks in the local area for 20 years. “And when it did,” Gary Grone commented, “I got a little flooding on crop land and picked up some sticks.” Grone, who will lose his homestead and farmland if the lake is created, said he was raised along that creek and has never seen it flood other than the one time in 1993.
According to the LBNRD newsletter, the simplest proposed dam would have a 75.8 square mile drainage area. It would also have a permanent pool measuring around 650 acres and a retarding pool with 8,100 acre feet of storage.

If the recreational dam is selected, the pool would be a third larger.  A major expense of both is land rights. For the  recreational option, land rights would be $12 million of the total cost. For the other option, land rights would require $5 million, Sotak said.
While LBNRD executive committee chairman Charles Rainforth insisted the meeting Thursday night was not a public meeting, the board asked for and recorded local comment at the end of the presentation.

Landowner Randy Williams, who’s home place was hit by a tornado last May, said he stands to lose 75 percent of his land if the dam goes in. “It will be underwater or so chopped up I won’t be able to use it,” he said. “ The tornado didn’t destroy us, but this NRD project will. This will put me out of business. So I just want to say that I want nothing to do with this “dam” project.”

Loma Grone appealed to the board members explaining the land in question wasn’t just scrub land or pasture land the NRD wanted to flood. “This is highly developed land, land we’ve spent our lives improving. Do not confiscate our tool of production. Do not confiscate our income. Please vote no.”

The Little Blue NRD’s programs and policies are directed by a 17-member, locally elected, board of directors. The board meets monthly at the NRD headquarters in Davenport.

“The next time we meet will be June 25,” Rainforth said Thursday night. “We’ll discuss the information and comments taken tonight.”

For more information about the proposed project or to view the slide show presented at the meeting Thursday, visit www.littlebluenrd.org.

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