Caldwell County commissioners and engineering representatives for the Little Otter Creek Lake project in Caldwell County were in Kansas City last week to support the new rules proposed to the EPA concerning the Waters of The U.S. (WOTUS) changes. The EPA launched a 60-day public comment period on the rule. The proposed rule makes a number changes to the definition of WOTUS that are important to farmers and also would greatly impact the construction and cost of the Little Otter Creek Reservoir. The proposed rule could reduce the costs of the reservoir project and the amount of mitigation that would be required.
Presiding Commissioner Bud Motsinger testified before the EPA concerning the impact the new rules would have on county government as well as on construction projects and the jurisdictional determination of what is truly a wetland and the need to better define what are the “Navigable waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act.
Caldwell County has sustained five severe droughts in the past 40 years. Most recently in 2018, three communities came within weeks of running out of drinking water. On Jan. 7, 2002, the Caldwell County Commission asked the Natural Resources Conservation Service to design a reservoir in the Little Otter Creek watershed, just east of Hamilton, Missouri. During the past 17 years, county officials have continued to work on acquiring property and obtaining permits to complete the reservoir, which is expected to provide at least 1.2 million gallons of water daily. County voters approved a 0.5% sales tax to help fund the project. The project expects to break ground within the next couple of years.
Randy Railsback, executive director of the Green Hills Regional Planning Commission, said all of the 11 Missouri counties he represents have seen water supplies diminish. “In the last 11 years, we have spent $13 million in Caldwell County on band aids to connect to other existing water supplies,” he said. “We are all for clean water, but the costs of these projects are enormous. The completion of the Little Otter Creek reservoir project will correct that water need in Caldwell County.”
John Holmes, Allstate Consultants civil engineer working on the Little Otter Creek project, stated during the public hearing that the proposed rule would result in an 8% decrease in jurisdictional streams and would decrease the amount of mitigation needed for stream impact as well as wetland mitigation.
There were representatives from across the nation testifying both for and against the proposed WOTUS rule changes.