Mounds Lake or Mounds Greenway in Anderson IN

 Natural flow or water supply weigh in reservoir debate

By Rick Yencer

ANDERSON, INDIANA (NEWS) - The Hoosier Environmental Council tried to upstage a weeklong public outing about the proposed Mound Lake on Monday by offering an alternative to conserve and maintain the natural flow of White River between Muncie and Anderson.

Called the Mounds Greenway, Tim Maloney of HEC offered a plan of trails and a park along the river to protect hardwood forests, wetlands and other habitats in the river's flood plain.

And he did it at a canoe launch in Daleville that would be wiped out of the proposed 2,100 acre reservoir that would provide 60 millions gallons of water flow a day above the minimum now in the river.

Meanwhile, The Anderson Madison County Economic Development Corp. that has been studying the feasibility of the reservoir unveiled its plan in a display at the Mounds Mall that is ground zero for the reservoir and nearby dam.

Rob Sparks, local economic development director, talked about a regional government authority managing what would be a water utility to supply Indianapolis or other communities. Just a week ago, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce released a study indicating a possible water shortage by 2050 with continued growth around Indianapolis.

And that study also maintained water was short in southern Indiana with the lack of rivers and underground aquifers that impacts growth.

The feasibility study by Sesco Group of Indianapolis found significant environmental problems will have to be addressed from the old General Motors auto manufacturing sites, reaching as much as $35 million. But those issues do not prohibit the use of the land as a drinking water supply.

The list of contaminants included chlorinated solvents, various metals, polychlorinated biphenyl and petroleum products.

It appeared that cleanup along with permitting by government could take up to three years with another three or four years So even the best case scenario would have the reservoir in use by 2021

Sparks said there was nothing in feasibility studies so far that would stop the reservoir. Even representatives of the Delaware natives whose ancestors inhabited the area said the water utility was a local issue.

Mounds Park that also would see some land submerged as ancient native burial mounds on the site that would be protected.

Community leaders also see the project cleaning up old industrial and commercial sites even the mall that was be demolished to make way for the reservoir. 

There will be loss of nearly $2 million in tax revenue from property acquired for the reservoir. But Sparks believes the reservoir would mean new growth and more building as land around it develops.

The development group is pushing the project based on the the need for water. Central Indiana actually ran dry during the drought of 1940-41 and began the movement of water conservative with building reservoirs throughout the state 20 and 30 years later.

Now with more growth around Indianapolis, there are predictions that central Indiana could run out of water again, and preliminary studies indicate the river with a reservoir could adequately supply the region.

HEC joined with Heart of the River to protect the free flow of the White River by offering a greenway along both sides of the river.

That greenway would include a trail besides picnic areas and other public access to the river and be managed by a public-private partnership And NEC proposed land acquisition be voluntary with no eminent domain.

Besides protecting the watershed, the greenway would connect park and other recreational facilities along the river and add to them.

A greenway approach also would preserve public places along the river like Range line Preserve, Walbridge Acres Park and Shellenbarger Park besides other canoe launches and camp sites.

The next step, Spark said, would to create a regional authority to over see construction and management of the lake. The study suggests local government make up that group and there's been no indication the state might take over the project, Sparks said.

No local tax dollars will be involved in construction. Sparks suggests state and federal funds or private money The utility itself would generate money too.





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