Lake Panorama RIZ 20-Year Renewal Approved

By Susan Thompson

At its regular meeting April 11, the Guthrie County Board of Supervisors approved a formal resolution to extend the Lake Panorama Rural Improvement Zone (RIZ) for 20 years, through June 30, 2039. This means approximately $50 million will be available for erosion control and water quality efforts at Lake Panorama over the next two decades.

The resolution passed on a four-to-one vote. Supervisors Clifford Carney, Everett Grasty, Jack Lloyd and Tom Rutledge voted in favor of the resolution. Mike Dickson cast the lone “no” vote.

The Lake Panorama RIZ has existed since 1997. The RIZ funding source is a portion of property taxes resulting from growth of the Lake Panorama development, with the remainder going to Guthrie County. RIZ also has the ability to levy a stand-by tax for bond repayment.

RIZ law is governed under IA Code Chapter 357H, which was significantly amended in the 2015 legislative session. The law outlines a process by which RIZ districts can apply for renewal, and requires boards of supervisors to grant renewal if RIZ districts demonstrate a continued need for the next 20 years.

A formal request for renewal was presented to the Guthrie County Board of Supervisors in October 2015. In January 2016, the board asked for an engineering report, an option available to them under Iowa law. That report was submitted to the board February 7, and a public hearing held March 28. 

The Lake Panorama RIZ report by Shive-Hattery, the engineering consulting firm that has worked with the Lake Panorama RIZ for many years, provided analysis of Lake Panorama’s past, present and future. It covered 13 key points required by RIZ law.

At the public hearing, Luke Monat with Shive-Hattery reviewed the first four points, related to the size and makeup of Lake Panorama and its watershed. Monat said the lake surface area is 1,160 acres, and covers seven square miles from the dam north to the Fansler Bridge. The watershed is mainly in Carroll, Greene and Guthrie counties, is 49 miles long, 10 miles wide, and covers about 425 square miles.

Monat said the main source of water for Lake Panorama is the Middle Raccoon River. Land use within the watershed varies, but nearly 73 percent is used for growing corn or soybeans. The rest is in hay or pasture, forest, and the urban areas of Carroll, Coon Rapids and several smaller communities.

Chris Bauer, also with Shive-Hattery, summarized the report’s information on the next five points required for RIZ renewal. Bauer said data collected from the lake bottom in 2016 was compared with three previous studies, all done in an effort to estimate how much sediment accumulates annually in the lake.

These data and comparisons led to the conclusion sediment has been deposited in Lake Panorama at an average rate of 476,000 cubic yards each year since the lake was built in 1970. Bauer said based on historical information and the current situation, silt accumulation is expected to continue at the same annual rate for the next 20 years.

Additional work revealed there is about 9.3 million cubic yards of sediment accumulated in Lake Panorama, despite dredging that began in 1986. The dredged material has gone into several storage structures over the years, and most now are full.

There are four active basins, and about 8.5 million cubic yards of storage space remains available. Bauer suggested a good goal for RIZ is to remove all the 9.5 cubic yards expected to flow into Lake Panorama over the next 20 years, plus another 25 percent of the 9.3 million cubic yards that has accumulated over the past 20 years. If that happens, another 3.5 million cubic yards of sediment storage capacity will be needed.

Monat returned to cover the final four required points. He said Lake Panorama’s water quality is impacted by nitrogen, phosphorus, waterborne pathogens and sediment. Testing has shown no significant changes in the lake’s water quality in the past 10 years, and Monat believes it is similar to other water bodies in Iowa.

Practices that can help reduce nutrient and sediment delivery to the lake have been installed in some coves, but more are needed. Monat said examples are two wetlands on the east side of the lake, one that is complete and helps protect Helen’s Cove, the other under construction that will protect Hughes Cove.

The final point required by Iowa law is to estimate the cost of effectively addressing water quality and sedimentation issues in the next 20 years. Monat said the cost to remove sediment would be $40 million, and another $10 million should be committed to water quality efforts, for a total of $50 million.

John Rutledge, Lake Panorama Association general manager, said the two wetlands now underway show it’s possible to obtain some state and federal cost share assistance. So if the RIZ board decides to allocate $10 million to water quality, that money could multiply into $20-25 million in total water quality funds.

RIZ anticipates receiving $1.87 million in revenues in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. Over $600,000 will be used to retire debt, with the remaining amount funding the dredging operation, silt basin development and water quality efforts.

The Lake Panorama RIZ is managed by a five-member board of trustees. Current trustees are Doug Hemphill, Dale Grotjohn, JoAnn Johnson, Bill Dahl and Corey Welberg.

The 46-page report from Shive-Hattery is available under the “Archives” tab on the Lake Panorama RIZ website: