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By Brad Scott, General Manager, North Central Missouri Regional Water Supply
In light of the progress that has occurred with the East Locust Creek Reservoir (including renaming it to the “Roy Blunt Reservoir”) I would like to provide a public progress update while providing some bullet point facts that address common questions and address some common misconceptions.
Final Record of Decision (ROD) signed in May of 2022, signifying full compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
Significant progress towards receiving the Army Corps of Engineers 404 permit and finalizing the construction plans for the dam, water intake and outlet structures.
Tree harvest and clearing of three major infrastructure corridors over the past two winters
Second round of major construction access infrastructure nearing completion.
Plans for MoDOT infrastructure improvements ready for bidding on October 21, 2022.
The Roy Blunt Reservoir, and 2,390 acres of buffer land around the reservoir is and will be owned by the North Central Missouri Regional Water Commission (NCMRWC), a public entity focused on providing clean, reliable drinking water for the residents of Sullivan and surrounding counties.
Senator Kit Bond and others purposely wrote legislation so that the NRCS could oversee the project, allowing for local ownership and control and reduce the buffer area, if desired. The NCMRWC purposely designed the lake to allow for, but control, development… not own it. This promotes economic development, which the NCMRWC felt was important, especially since the people of Sullivan County have taxed themselves to see the dream of a regional water supply become a reality.
Recreation is a necessary component of the reservoir to ensure a positive cost benefit ratio for the project. To ensure that the benefits of recreational use occur without distracting from the water supply needs, NCMRWC will largely leave the recreational development component to the private property owners adjacent to the reservoir. While the NCMRWC owned property will be mostly available for low impact public use, protection of water quality will be the primary priority on NCMRWC land.
Any land to be developed for wholesale commercial or residential uses will be on land that is owned by the private landowners and beef producers. To date, no commercial or residential developer has approached the NCMRWC about development and if they did, they would be directed to the courthouse to get a list of landowners around the lake, most of whom are the very landowners from whom the NCMRWC bought land from for the lake.
The boundary of the reservoir property was guided by two factors; 100 foot from principal pool (Missouri Department of Natural Resources – MDNR) or top of dam elevation (Natural Resources Conservation Service), whichever is greater. From there, the lines were draw in a contour that made sense. Extreme efforts were made to minimize the amount of land that the NCMRWC would need to buy from landowners who were mainly farmers and beef producers. In addition there were some purchases of land downstream of the reservoir for the purposes of providing additional recreational opportunities, offsets to impacts on endangered species and management of the East Locust Creek stream corridor.
There is 1,668 acres of lake buffer that will be held in a conservation easement by the Heritage Land Trust Foundation; a non-profit and profoundly not a developer. The easement was necessary to preserve habitat for bats and meet U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) requirements and will act as a vegetated filtration buffer, which is something NCMRWC would have done whether required by the USFWS or not. The remaining 722 acres of lake buffer will also be managed to maximize protection of reservoir water quality to the degree possible given other required uses. The vast majority of such lands will be open to low-impact public uses.
The entire water shed from the top to the dam is lawfully under the jurisdiction of the, as yet formed, Lake Authority, which was advanced by NCMRWC and established by State legislation. This enables the Lake Authority, which is subservient to NCMRWC to take all necessary action to prevent threats to the reservoir. NCMRWC’s primary interest is the 500 foot area, essentially back from principal pool that it calls the high impact zone. Action can and will be taken anywhere within the watershed if a threat is perceived or detected to our water supply but the approach is likely to be more pro-active in the high impact zone. However, it is the NCMRWC’s hope that this jurisdiction will be applied sparingly.
The NCMRWC has undertaken design and governance steps to improve and ensure the highest water quality that can be achieved given our topography, geology and soil make-up including reinforced shoreline areas, jetties to mitigate wave action, stream buffer protections, strategic clearing in the lake, no-wake zones and other measures.
Along with MRWA the NCMRWC secured a $ 1 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant to incentive area landowners to implement practices, voluntarily, to mitigate run-off and erosion. The NCMRWC will continue to apply for such grants to the extent that local landowners will participate.
The NCMRWC applied for and received a $1.5 million Environmental Protection Agency 319 fund non-point source water protection grant, which are administered by the MDNR. The NCMRWC will use those funds and apply for two more rounds to place rip rap in vulnerable areas of the lakeshore before the lake is built to reduce sedimentation and nutrient loading to the reservoir. We are awaiting our Army Corps of Engineers 404 permit before those funds can be spent.
NCMRWC has been recognized and given a Source Water Protection System of the Year award by the Missouri Rural Water Association for is Source Water Protection Plan.
The NCMRWC is taking retention of reservoir water very seriously. To minimize seepage losses, the proposed dam design includes the usual compacted clay core as well as chimney and blanket drains to manage seepage and a combination of grout curtains and clay cores to cutoff seepage beneath the dam. In addition, clay blankets will be placed in areas outside of the dam to cut off other potential seepage paths.
There will be docks; some private individual, some private community and some public, but they will not be everywhere as our shoreline topography and lake fluctuation will not accommodate them. In addition, the total number of boat licenses, including both annual and daily licenses will be managed and limited to ensure that boat traffic on the lake never exceeds acceptable levels for protection of water quality and recreational quality of experience The Lake Authority will control where docks will be allowed and the size and materials used in dock construction. A license will be required that will be annually renewed and can be withdrawn if any threat to water quality is determined.
In summary, every lake is purpose built for water supply or flood control or recreation or, as in our case, a combination of those. The project team continually looks to find the best possible merger of project purposes. Because providing value to the local economy is a high priority, this reservoir will not look like a typical Corps of Engineers Lake, which typically has a large buffer area around it. This will allow for managed construction and development around the lake on private land, fostering job creation and economic development, unlike around Corps of Engineers lakes.