A trip last month to Washington, D.C., by members of the Tri-State Water Resource Coalition was successful on multiple levels, coalition representatives said during a meeting Wednesday morning at Joplin City Hall.
“I got all green lights and no red lights,’’ said Gail Melgren, executive director of the coalition. “It seemed like it worked and went well.’’
Members of the coalition, from April 16-19, met with U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, and representatives of their staffs, and U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long of Missouri.
They also met with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will work with the coalition in its bid to have water reserves in Stockton and Table Rock lakes reallocated for municipal use in Southwest Missouri.
Melgren said the coalition touched upon environmental assessments and impacts, the size of a possible reallocation, and projected water demand for the region.
The corps officials told the coalition they were open to the possibility of doing one reallocation study for both Stockton and Table Rock lakes. That study would involve a collaboration between the corps’ offices in Little Rock and Kansas City. The coalition was invited to write a letter requesting the reallocation study.
The coalition, Melgren said, may have had a significant impact on an amendment to the Water Resource Development Act that is now in the U.S. Senate. A provision of the amendment would block any allocation or reallocation of municipal water supply storage if the cumulative amounts exceeds 5 percent of the conservation storage pool of the projects.
Representing the coalition, in addition to Melgren, were David Hertzberg, president of the coalition and head of public works in Joplin; Roddy Rogers, with City Utilities of Springfield; Pete Rauch, chairman for the coalition’s technical committee and head of Monett’s water utility; and Brian Bingle, of Nixa, who chairs the coalition’s legislative committee.
The coalition, in a letter to Blunt, said that 5 percent was too low and would severely limit or cripple Corps of Engineers lakes as a source for municipal use. The 5 percent limit was stripped from the act after the coalition raised its objection, Melgren said.
In a similar move, the coalition sent a letter to the Missouri Department of Conservation expressing opposition to a flow regime policy proposed by the department. The policy, if implemented, could restrict the amount of water from reservoirs that could be used for drinking water, Melgren said.
The coalition received an update from Mike Beezhold, senior planner with CDM Smith, which is doing a study of supply availability. Eventually, the consulting firm will identify the gap in available ground water and surface water to meet future demands.
The Tri-State Water Resource Coalition was formed in Joplin in 2003 after a study showed that water shortages could occur in Southwest Missouri during periods of extreme drought should the area’s population continue to grow.