In the near future, Missouri American Water Co. will file a formal request for a state certificate in connection with its intent to establish a water-storage reservoir in Newton County.

When the utility selected the site of its proposed reservoir three weeks ago, officials said the plan was to apply for a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers within 60 days. The Corps is the entity that will have ultimate authority to issue or deny the permit for the reservoir.

But Christie Barnhart, external affairs manager for Missouri American, said the company also plans to file for a certificate of convenience and necessity with the Missouri Public Service Commission. A certificate generally allows utilities to account for the costs it incurs in a project, to have those costs included in a rate case upon the project's completion and establishes a framework to account for depreciation.

Neither the Corps permit nor the PSC certificate application had been made as of yet, Barnhart said Thursday, but both are expected in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Mark Renfro, whose family owns farmland in the area of the proposed reservoir, said that many affected landowners had a meeting about two weeks ago with an attorney who specializes in eminent domain. Renfro said there is no opposition organizing among landowners in the area, but most have said they expect to hire attorneys.

"That’s just to protect us because none of us have been through this before," he said. "So we’re just trying to get prepared. It's eminent domain. I mean, there’s nothing we’re going to be able to do about it. That lawyer has told us our land is gone, it’s just a matter of what they give you for it now."

Renfro said his family has yet to have any contact with the utility since the site selection announcement was made. The letter that informed them of the site selection indicated it would be six to eight weeks before talks between the two sides begin, he said.

Liberty Utilities-Empire District is in the latter stages of seeking a certificate from the PSC for its proposed wind farms in Missouri. As will happen in Missouri American's case, the process has included negotiations between the utility and regulators, scrutiny by other third parties and the opportunity for public input.

Before the PSC decides whether to grant the request for a certificate, the matter will be examined by the PSC staff, a group whose job in such proceedings is to examine the impact of a project or rate change on the public, which includes the utility's stockholders. Other groups, such as the Office of Public Counsel, the state's ombudsman for property rights and a watchdog that represents the interests of ratepayers only in regulatory proceedings, are also likely to get involved in the steps for a certificate of convenience and necessity.

The regulators will be combing through Missouri American's proposal to ensure that it doesn't have a negative impact on the aforementioned groups. In addition, environmental groups, city governments and other stakeholders may ask to be formally included in the proceedings.

Plans call for the utility to build a reservoir of up to 1,500 acres off-site from Shoal Creek in the area southeast of Joplin. The reservoir is needed, Missouri American and others have said, to help address a projected shortfall in the area’s long-term water supply, and the company has said it will use eminent domain if necessary.

General location

The proposed site is on the east side of Interstate 49 north of Route MM, west of Nighthawk Road and south of Elder Road. It would affect parts of Marten, Lime Kiln, Carver and Foliage roads. The reservoir would affect Baynham Branch, a tributary to Shoal Creek. The dam would be along a north-south axis a few miles east of the interstate. The reservoir would be south of George Washington Carver National Monument.