Commissioners Table DeSmet Agreement With SaSol

Johnson County's Commissioners.
Johnson County's Commissioners.

Johnson County's Commissioners voted unanimously to table a vote on an agreement between themselves and SaSol Synfuels International that would cover operations, maintenance and other aspects of running the reservoir at Lake DeSmet.

SaSol, a South African company, is the second largest owner of water rights in the lake under Johnson County, and currently pays 31% of maintenance costs under an agreement in place for since the 1990s.

At Tuesday's county commission meeting, the question of whether or not to sign the agreement brought much discussion between the commissioners and those attending the meeting.
Commissioner Jim Hicks has some reservations over mediation and binding arbitration in the event of a dispute, and he is also concerned with the document in general, saying he didn't believe the original agreement in 1996 was ever looked at by legal representation on the county's behalf. He would like the document gone over by water and legal experts to protect the county.

A number of citizens attending the meeting spoke in favor of the commissioners waiting to sign the agreement to allow experts and the county's legal team to go over the entire agreement.

Scott Williams, representing SaSol, said the company has no problem with the county looking over the agreement, saying the commissioners “have to feel comfortable with the agreement. We're not in any rush (to get the agreement signed).”
Williams said SaSol has operated under the existing agreement and will continue to do so, and will continue working with the owner of the lake (Johnson County).

The signing of the document was tabled indefinitely and the commissioners instructed Deputy County Attorney Barry Crago to have his office hire water experts to go over the agreement.

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