LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. — Construction of a causeway connecting the Isla Del Sol island community to the mainland is set to begin September 15. According to a spokesman for the project, they expect it to be completed in 60 to 90 days.
The partially completed condominium project is located at the 3.5 mile mark on an island known for many years as Hawaiian Island, then as Atlantis Island and now Isla Del Sol.
Currently, the island community, which consists of three buildings of 30 units each, can be accessed only by ferry.
“We’re really looking forward to completion because it’s a positive for everyone, all the way around,” said Kevin Brown, who has been overseeing the project for Rockwood Bank of Eureka, Mo. Rockwood Bank funded the original development of the project, received it back in foreclosure in 2009 and has been acting as the developer ever since. “Isla Del Sol owners will now have 24/7 access; emergency response time for an ambulance will be cut drastically from currently as long as 45 minutes; the new fish habitat will actually be an improvement for the area; and neighbors on the mainland won’t have to deal with traffic backed up while people wait for the ferry. They won’t have to deal with the noise and air pollution caused by the ferry making 60 trips per day during the summer, plus they get a new boat ramp and parking area out of the deal. There really aren’t any ‘negatives’ associated with this.”
However, there were several “negatives” associated with not building the causeway. Brown said with more than $400,000 per year in operational costs, the continued operation of the ferry was unsustainable.
Rockwood Bank has been paying the expenses of operating the ferry for the homeowners since 2009.
“The cost to operate the ferry for the existing 43 homeowners would have been approximately $10,000 per year, per homeowner, which they would have been unable to pay. It would have also been next to impossible to sell any more units. If the causeway was not going to be constructed, it would definitely have become a failed and abandoned project, which would have resulted in the 43 current condo owners losing their properties and their investments. It would have become a ghost town and eyesore,” he said.
After working out numerous details over the last four years with the 10 governing agencies, Rockwood requested that Ameren Missouri convey interest in the land needed for construction of the causeway.
In February, Ameren submitted the proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an independent government agency operating under the Department of Energy that is tasked with protecting energy customers and making sure regulated energy companies are acting within the law.
FERC had 45 days to comment or object to the plan. Because they did neither, the plan
was approved as submitted, Brown explained.
Although the span between the island and the mainland is just 300 feet, the causeway roadbed will measure 570 feet long and 24 feet wide. The deck, which will be lighted, will include two, 10-foot-wide driving lanes and guardrails.
Initially, some opposition came from property owners in the Frelich’s Resort subdivision, which runs along Knox Road. Residents expressed concern that they would lose their existing community boat ramp if the causeway was built, so Rockwood Bank redesigned the access point. Under the new plan, the bank will tear out the existing ramp, which is crumbling and falling apart, and build a new 20-foot-wide ramp with concrete aprons and a community parking area with 7 to 8 parking spots. The bank will also be resurfacing a portion of Knox Road as well as making improvements to the circle drive that serves the subdivision.
Because groups like the Lake of the Ozark Watershed Alliance
(LOWA) and the Missouri Department of Conservation also expressed concern about what the causeway would do to the ecosystem and to the “unique, underwater saddle” that spans the distance between the island and the shore, Brown said Rockwood hired environmental engineers to design an “enhanced aquatic habitat” fish mitigation plan. This habitat features three, 8-foot culverts, 72 feet long, to provide for water transfer and allow fish movement; 12, 24-inch-by-8-foot culverts embedded in the causeway that will act as fish caves; and a plethora of anchored trees and stumps. “We could have started construction sooner but the Conservation Department prefers that no construction take place in the lake between March 15 and June 15 because fish are spawning. To honor that and also avoid having the ferry shut down during the summer season, the bank has decided to
continue operating the ferry until the fall,” Brown explained.
According to Brown, the bank will fund approximately $1.1 million for construction of the causeway. To recoup those costs, with approval of Miller County commissioners, a Community Improvement District (CID) was formed. A CID may be either a political subdivision or a not-for-profit corporation.
CIDs are organized for the purpose of financing a wide range of public-use facilities and establishing and managing policies and public services relative to the needs of the district. In
this case, the CID encompasses the island, the footprint of the causeway and a small sliver of
land where the causeway will meet the mainland.
Under the CID, Isla Del Sol condominium owners will pay an additional $800 to $900 per year in real estate property taxes over the next 20 years to Miller County. The county will then disburse payments to the CID board, which also will establish a special reserve fund for maintenance of the causeway as well as for a portion of Knox Road leading to the causeway.
The bank will not be reimbursed for the cost of building the ramp and parking area or the improvements to Knox Road.
When completed, Isla Del Sol, the only island development at Lake of the Ozarks, will include 180 units with elevator access and panoramic lakefront views, a lakeside pool with fountains and a splash playground for children, a dog walking area, ample parking, docks protected by breakwaters and other amenities.
“Everyone is really excited to see this project move forward. I have to give credit to Rockwood Bank. I’ve never seen a bank support a foreclosed property like they have with this one. They worked diligently with all the agencies over the last four years designing the causeway to comply with all their requests and stayed with the project to save it,” he said.