House passes Deyoe rural water bill
Ames Tribune (IA), 2014-02-20
Feb. 20--The Iowa House of Representatives has passed a bill intended to reduce conflicts between cities looking to expand, such as Ames and Nevada, and rural water providers operating within two miles of those cities.
Rep. Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada, sponsored the legislation, which passed 97-0 Tuesday and was a rewrite of a bill he introduced last year. That effort failed to make it to the floor for a vote after rural water providers complained about a regulation that would have limited how much it could request from a city to buy its service rights.
The revised bill would require rural water providers to submit to a city a notice of intent to provide water within two miles of the city in an area they don't already service and, if the city accepts the plan, reduce compliance time from four to three years, after which the city could provide its services through a buyout process.
Currently, because of a court case decided in 2000, rural water associations, which are nonprofit corporations, are not subject to a rule requiring districts, which are government entities, to submit such a plan. They would be under Deyoe's bill.
The bill would require a city to provide a plan to a rural water provider if the city opted to provide its own services instead of accepting the provider's plan. The three-year compliance period would apply to the city as well, requiring it to deliver water of sufficient quantity and quality to meet consumer demand.
The bill would also set up a mediation process to resolve conflicts in areas a city annexes if a water service agreement cannot otherwise be reached.
"It's got some important reforms," Deyoe said on Wednesday. "I obviously would have preferred the bill we did last year, which was a stronger bill, but sometimes you can't always get everything you want down here."
Locally, Deyoe said the bill could help resolve problems between the Central Iowa Water Association and Ames and Nevada, which are in varying stages of building industrial parks between the two cities where the association controls water rights.
Ames Assistant City Manager Bob Kindred said the city had tried for three years to get the association to specify a price for a water service rights buyout east of town but gave up about 10 months ago after the association never gave the city a price.
That could change if the bill is passed, Deyoe said, and if the city of Ames requests a notice of intent plan from the association and the association is unable to provide the volume of water required to serve an industrial park within three years of the request.
The previous version of Deyoe's bill included a formula for how rural water providers would be fairly compensated if a city took over its water rights, which would have limited the amount of money a provider could have requested from a city.
The Central Iowa Water Association has been free to set its own buyout prices for water services in Nevada's industrial park, which has cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Both Deyoe and Kindred said they would have preferred the stronger regulations, which rural water providers objected to, but they were still encouraged that the House passed the revised bill.
Central Iowa Water Association's CEO, Jim LaPlant, did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday, but the association hired a lobbyist to oppose both versions of the the bill.
In Ames, fair compensation is also a concern in the Northern Growth Area the city is in the process of annexing, where water service rights are controlled by the Xenia Rural Water District.
Developers in the area have negotiated agreements with Xenia to pay it $2,700 for each home they build so that the homes can receive the city's water services, which include fire protection.
Kindred said the city estimated that 1,000 homes might be built in the area.
"That's $2.7 million they'll get to not provide water," he said.
That, he said, "makes Ames a less attractive place to grow because it's more costly" when the city has to pay Xenia not to provide water on top of the costs of extending its own water services.
Gary Benjamin, CEO and general manager of Xenia, was on vacation Wednesday and could not be reached for comment about Deyoe's bill.
Deyoe said he thought there was support in the state Senate for his bill but that it might be "a little more difficult" to pass there.
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