Missouri American Water holds meeting with land owners over construction of new reservoir

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Engineers with Missouri American Water meet with Newton County land owners that would be impacted by the construction of a new reservoir. The reservoir is being billed as a way to meet Joplin’s growing water needs, but some landowners are a little uneasy about it.

David Abercrombie is just one of the roughly 100 property owners that would be affected if Missouri American Water ends up choosing Site B to build a new reservoir.

“Let’s say that they decided they wanted to buy my entire property, my home. We’ve lived in it for 48 years. I don’t want to move,” says David Abercrombie.

Tuesday night, he and dozens of other property owners in the proposed site on the west side of I-49 in Newton County came to Missouri Southern to get their questions about the project answered.

“I was mostly concerned about how much land they would be buying or taking,” says Abercrombie.

He says at the moment, the proposal would only take a portion of his land. For others, though, it would involve their entire property, including the house they live in. Christie Barnhart says that’s why Missouri American Water wanted to give those people a chance to ask questions.

“This is a very unique set of questions that these folks have, and with good reason, so we’re here tonight to hopefully give them good information,” says Christie Barnhart, External Affairs Manager, Missouri American Water.

The reservoir is being viewed as a solution to potential water issues. For example, engineers spoke to the crowd about the possibility of drought, and how that would impact Shoal Creek, where Joplin draws most of its water from.

Using data from the historic 1954 drought, they said the creek wouldn’t provide enough water to meet the city’s demands. Barnhart says the project is still in the very early stages of planning, and that rumors have already started spreading through social media.

“You’re getting out the facts to people, but you’re also trying to control rumors, and in situations like this, when people are uneasy and nervous, that’s to be expected,” says Christie Barnhart.

Barnhart says this project is still several years from completion. If all goes as planned, Missouri American Water will have a final site selected by early February of next year, with completion not set for another five or six years.

Engineers from Missouri American Water told the crowd they want to negotiate with the land owners, but did admit that eminent domain is an option, although they said they would only use it as a last resort. But Abercrombie says at this point, he doesn’t think it will come to that for him.

“If they decide this is what they’re going to do, this is what they’re going to do, so you just as well negotiate with them and take the best deal you can get and move on,” says David Abercrombie.

Although he says he understands why others may not see it that way. A second meeting is scheduled for January 8th to meet with owners that would be impacted by the other possible site for the reservoir on the east side of I-49 in Newton County.

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