Building a lake in Cherokee County may be possible, but there are considerable hurdles to overcome, the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors were told recently.
"Most of the time, the only real show stopper is cost," Michael Sotak, one of three representatives of Olsson associates present at the meeting, told the supervisors. Also present from the Omaha based engineering firm were Jeff Thorn and Paul Nolan.
Sotak said that over the last 16 years, the firm has been involved in about 120 reservoir and lake projects. He said the time from start of planning to start of construction varies widely. One project has been planned since 1988 and a construction date has not been set, while planning on another project was started a few weeks ago and construction will begin in a few weeks.
Sotak explained that the difference is in how many different objectives need to come together in financing a project.
"We cannot wait for 30 years for this to happen," Terry Graybill, supervisor and proponent for a man-made lake in Cherokee, said. Graybill noted that the county has lost 800 people in the last five years and there won't be enough people left in 30 years to undertake such projects.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a federal agency, is undertaking a county-wide site inventory for water supply and recreation in Cherokee County. Sotak noted that the NRCS does not get involved in lake projects of the size being considered.
Graybill said that Mill Creek is a dream site, providing a potential lake of 1,600 acres, about half the size of Storm Lake. "Grey Creek wouldn't be big enough. It would make only about a 200 acre lake," Graybill said.
Graybill asked Sotak whether the fact that a Mill Creek Lake would drain from a large area would create and insurmountable problem. Graybill said the drainage area to lake surface area is about 100 to 1.
Sotak said that the ideal ratio is about 30 to one. In the case of a large drainage, there would probably need to be a series of basins, possibly with the first basin being a wetland, a second basin being a fishing area and the third on being the recreation and residential area.
Linda Burkhart, director of the Sanford Museum, noted that there are important archeological sites along Mill Creek. She pointed out that the NRCS is conducting a feasibility study for free and the supervisors are considering paying for a study by a private firm.
David Phipps, a property owner in the area that would be affected by a proposed lake, spoke in opposition to the planned lake. Phipps provided each of the supervisors with a packet of information which included correspondence from an archeologist form the State Historic Preservation Office to the state conservationist.
The correspondence noted that the site of a prehistoric village, known as the Phipps Site, is listed as a National Historic Landmark.