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Landowners in lake path hope legislature acts to limit eminent domain

(Radio Iowa News) – A group of southern Iowa landowners is hoping a last-minute effort from lawmakers could roll-back construction plans for a lake near Osceola. Doug Robins of Osceola says the farm ground that’s been in his family since 1971 may go under water if lawmakers don’t act.

“We thought the 2006 law was going to solve everything and two weeks later they came up with the loopholes to get around it,” Robins says.

The City of Osceola and other local governments in the area are planning to build a 900 acre lake for drinking water and as a water supply for businesses, like a meat processing plant in Osceola. Developers hope to start buying land for the project this year, but Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton is making one last attempt to forbid Iowa governments from using eminent domain to acquire land for lakes that would be used from recreation.

“This is a good, bipartisan issue and it’s unconscionable to me that we could even think of adjourning knowing that we could save all these folks’ livelihoods,” Kaufmann says.

Kaufmann is trying to get the proposed restriction written into a huge budget bill that’s still pending in the legislature, but it’s unclear if that will happen. Cindy Sanford of Osceola is among the landowners who’ve been meeting one-on-one with legislators to make their case against the lake.

“We’ll lose our home and 172 acres, which is everything we own,” Sanford says. “We’ve owned it — my husband and I — for 24 years and we raised our kids there.”

Kathy Kelley and her husband won’t lose their home, but they stand to lose 50 acres of surrounding timber land to the lake, “which is why we built our house there 30 years. It is totally a recreation parcel for us, which will totally take the pleasure out of why we bought that place and live there.”

Kelley says she and her husband personally have spent $15,000 fighting the proposed lake, which she charges is more about recreation than about finding a new water supply. Lake supporters say Osceola is growing and the current water supply isn’t adequate to meet demand.