Lake Project Could Challenge Eminent Domain Law: KCCI-TV8 (Des Moines IA), 2/15/06

Lawmakers To Debate Issue

Should the government have the right to buy your property — even against your will — for a public project or even economic development?

[Iowa] Lawmakers plan to debate the issue of eminent domain.

A bill in the House would forbid government from using eminent domain to enhance a community's economy.

In Clarke County, local leaders wonder how that could affect a proposed water project.

In south central Iowa, it's dry. West Lake in Osceola is 51 inches below normal. The lake is the area's primary water supply, and leaders throughout Clarke County think the county needs a second reservoir.

There's one on the drawing board. Local governments throughout the county have settled on four possible sites for a lake.

"I think it would benefit Clarke County, and I think it would benefit southern Iowa," said Clarke County Supervisor Jack Cooley

But the benefit comes at a high price to those in the proposed lake's path. The county would put a dam on Squaw Creek, northwest of Osceola, which would affect several farms and houses.

Two of the proposed reservoir sites would flood out one area. That means Mike Kelly would lose his property and his home.

"We've lived here for 22 or 23 years, raised our kids there, my family, I grew up in that area, and I plan on retiring there. I just believe that I ought to be able to live there the rest of my life," Kelly said.

If any landowners fight the project, the county could try to use its power of eminent domain. But a bill in the Iowa House could limit that power.

Osceola Mayor Fred Diehl said he's watching the debate closely.

"If you didn't have eminent domain, and, say, one person right in the middle of this project said, 'No, I'm not interested, regardless of the price, regardless of what happens, I'm just not interested,' that could hold up the whole project," Diehl said.

KCCI-TV8: www.kcci.com