News Feature | February 24, 2017

Bill To Remake Des Moines Utility Is 'Retribution,' Official Says

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Iowa lawmakers are considering legislation that would dismantle Des Moines Water Works.

The legislation would “dismantle Des Moines Water Works and replace it with a regional water authority,” The Des Moines Register reported. “House File 316, introduced last week by state Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, would halt all planning, design or construction of new water utilities until July 1, 2018.”

The legislation would create “a regional water authority board to assume powers, duties, assets, and liabilities for certain water utilities.”

Supporters of Des Moines Water Works say the legislative effort amounts to payback.

“Bill Stowe, executive director of Des Moines Water Works, said Klein's bill is retribution for the board's lawsuit, filed in 2015. A new board could agree to drop the lawsuit, Stowe confirmed,” according to The Des Moines Register.

Des Moines Water Works has waged a groundbreaking lawsuit against agricultural drainage districts in attempt to hold farming interests accountable for the steep price of treating nutrient pollution.

The new legislation is not the first time Des Moines Water Works has been targeted for reorganization. GOP state lawmakers tried to reorganize the utility last year after the lawsuit was filed, but Democrats kills the proposal.

The new legislation could have impacts beyond just the water industry. Tech stakeholders may be affected, as well.

“West Des Moines has a contract with Microsoft to build $65 million worth of new infrastructure — including the extension of water lines — at the company's third data center site, west of Interstate 35 and south of the Dale Maffitt Reservoir,” the Register reported.

“The data center, known by the codename ‘Project Osmium,’ is the third planned by Microsoft in West Des Moines. The price tag would make it one of the largest investments in the state, trailing only MidAmerican Energy’s multibillion-dollar wind farms and Google’s $2.5 billion data center in Council Bluffs. The proposed legislation also could put the brakes on suburban cities' efforts to move forward with their own water treatment plants,” the report said.

Image credit: "hewitt scene," william garrett © 2015, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: