Proposed Mounds Lake in Anderson IN raises concerns among community

Heart of the River offers new concerns about proposed reservoir; expert describes "working like a leaky bath tub"

By Rick Yencer

CHESTERFIELD, INDIANA (NEWS) -  The biology, hydrology, archeology and economics of the proposed Mounds Lake all raised concerns Monday along with projection of a $1 billion price tag and more than a 20 year timetable.

Experts in all those fields organized by Heart of the River opposed to building a dam to create a body of water talked about how the project was a bad idea as more than 200 people listened during a gathering at Millcreek Civic Center.

The project offered to provide a new water supply and create a new economy in the old auto town is awaiting its first engineering study commissioned by the Madison County Economic Development Corp. and funded by the state.

But opponents have organized in the last six months and now want to governor to stop the project and offered some of their evidence to the people.

The most compelling came from Tony Fleming, a licensed geologist with 25 years experience in geology and ground water study in Indiana.

Fleming came out debunking the argument that the reservoir was needed because of a regional shortage of water supply.

"That is absolutely absurd," said Fleming, saying Marion, Hamilton and Madison counties sat on literally millions of gallons of ground water.

And he said the local geology consisting of mainly sand and gravel would make any reservoir reassemble "a leaky bath tub."

And the leaking subsurface of gravel and sand would raise the water table around the reservoir causing damage to homes and businesses.

Fleming also was not shy about offering the real costs of building a reservoir currently estimated at about $400 million. The better cost would be  $1 billion, Fleming said, with all infrastructure repair and rerouting utilities around the reservoir.

Donald Ruch, a biologist from Ball State University, pointed out how the reservoir would shrink already shrinking wetlands and destroy a rare one called a fenn that has lots of pre-settlement plants and flowers.

Botany studies of the fenn showed more than 500 native species of plants with 106 being very exotic back to the time before Europeans  settled the Midwest.

"We need to preserve this site," said Ruch.

Donald Cochran, an archeologist from Ball State, described the Mounds native earthworks among the most unique in the country and protected on the National Register of Historic Places. Erosion from the proposed reservoir would damage the mounds and it would be costly to excavate the area to ensure other burial grounds would not be effected.

"Once they are gone, they are gone forever," said Cochran.

Retired economist Morton Marcus of Indiana University, said it was hard to figure the economy of the reservoir without more information.

However, Marcus said the money could be better spent on public education in Madison and Delaware counties or fixing up inner city neighborhoods.

Many in the audience seemed opposed to the reservoir, whether they were property owners who would give up their land and homes or environmentalists who thought changing the landscape and water table was a bad idea.

Fleming also wondered how a new dam could control as much as a half a million acre watershed upstream in Delaware County where Prairie Creek Reservoir is located.

That also could impact treatment plants in Yorktown and Muncie where more wastewater treatment could be necessary from backed up river flow.

The panel seemed convinced it might be more than 30 years before the reservoir could be constructed given all the study, approval and ultimately work could be done.