For Dawn Newlan, owner of Trinity Circle Horses Healing Heart, Missouri American Water's proposal to build a 13-billion gallon reservoir in Newton County to provide water for Joplin, doesn't just hit close to home - it threatens her home, her business, and the life she's built. Her property lies within one of two areas where Missouri American Water will build what's known as the Joplin Reservoir. The site that affects Newlan's property is located south of I-44, east of I-49 and west of Highway 59 between Neosho and Diamond. The other potential site is located east of I-49. Both are located in Newton County. Like the other property owners in the two possible sites, Newlan received a letter from Missouri America Water in early November, the first notification that a reservoir plan was in the works.
"My initial reaction was angry and shocked," Newlan said. "I was very devastated. We have a lot of time and effort in the property."
Trinity Circle Horses Healing Hearts isn't Newlan's only business on site either.
"My graphics company is here," she said, noting that she sold the building that formerly housed it in Neosho. "My whole entire life is wrapped up in this property. It is my house, my horses, business, everything."
Missouri American Water has yet to decide which of the two properties will be the final site but meetings with landowners are planned. The first - for the area west of I-49 - will take place on Tuesday, December 18 from 6-8 p.m. in the Connor Ballroom, located on the 3rd floor of the Billingsly Student Center on the campus of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. A second meeting, for the area that includes Newlan's property will take place in early 2019. According to a spokesman for Missouri American Water, the final site must be selected before they can file for permits from the Army Corps of Engineers. That process can take up to five years. Even so, Newlan remains concerned. "We try to stay running as normal as possible but obviously if we have to move, that's not going to happen," Newlan said. "We wanted our clients to realize we might have to close unexpectedly." Finding another location could prove to be very challenging.
"It would be very difficult to find a comparable property. We just can't situate on any piece of property. We can't put our horses out on just any property. It has to be rock and debris free. We need good, level pasture."
Many of Newlan's clients use a wheelchair or walker. She provides a variety of therapy services that include working with veterans, some of which receive scholarships. Trinity Circle's mission statement is help heal any man, woman or child that has experienced such trauma that it will forever change their life with horses. They are a 501(c)3 not for profit organization.
"It's been extremely unnerving to me. I don't like the situation. I don't believe the government should be able to force you off your property," Newlan said. "My heart breaks for the (other) property owners, the families. My heart breaks for them. But, we have to think of the needs of the future generation." Questions have arisen regarding the Newton County locations when Joplin, located in Jasper County, will benefit from the reservoir. Some property owners have wondered if the project can be moved elsewhere, to Jasper County.
"I don't know that it can be diverted," Newlan said. "I'm going to assume that they looked into other opportunities but the deal here is that Newton County has relatively clean ground water. It's got to happen. I understand that."
According to Christie Barnhart, Missouri American Water, the water situation has reached critical levels.
"We have to do something to be able to provide water and be able to supply water to the region now and in the future."
According to Missouri American Water, they've monitored water levels for Joplin for a decade. During that time the supply of water has diminished each year.
"We're under the impression that this is the preferred location," Newlan said. "We've prepared for the worst. We have an attorney - he's willing to fight them in court. We're hoping, as their letter stated, to receive fair market value, not pennies on the dollar. We are going to hold them to that." Newlan plans to remain in the area even if forced to relocate. "I'm not going to move outside the area - there's no one around that do the services they way we do. There are other therapy ranches but I am certain, as far as I know, I am the only equine specialist in metal health and learning. There are other instructors but without my knowledge."
While no one knows what the future will hold or how the Joplin Reservoir project will proceed, Newlan plans to continue her services - whether that's at the same location or another. "They told me there will be an appraisal on each property. It can go either way depending on how they appraise," Newlan said. For now, it's business as usual at Trinity Circle Horses Healing Hearts, located at 7370 Marten Road but Newlan will be keeping her clients informed as she - and other property owners - wait to see how the proposed reservoir project unfolds.