Environmental group opposes dam on White River

(The Herald Bulletin Photo)

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — The Hoosier Environmental Council has joined other environmental groups in opposing a proposed seven-mile long reservoir along the White River in central Indiana, saying it would have harmful and long-lasting consequences.

Advocates of the Mounds Lake Reservoir project say it would improve flood control, create prime real estate for waterfront housing and boost property values and economic development in the Anderson area.

Tim Maloney, the council’s senior policy director, said its concerns are similar to those raised by other opponents, including the impact on Mounds State Park, forest areas and the river’s ecosystem. He said a free-flowing river and adjoining natural lands can provide a novel approach to sustainable economic development.

“It’s an underappreciated gem of a natural resource we don’t want to see drowned under a reservoir,” Maloney said.

An environmental study is being conducted for the 2,100-acre lake that’s estimated to cost between $350 million and $450 million to build. A 50-foot-high earthen dam would create a lake in Madison and Delaware counties slightly larger than Geist Reservoir on the northeast side of Indianapolis.

Supporters say the reservoir could also provide bike paths, fishing and other recreational activities and help supplement water needs in the Indianapolis area.

Rob Sparks, the director of the Corporation for Economic Development, which is pushing for the project, told The Herald Bulletin that work continues on the feasibility study and the local group is comfortable with the information being obtained.

“This is a cost-effective solution to regional water supply issues,” he said. “It will also enhance other quality-of-life issues in the region.”

Maloney said the Hoosier Environmental Council wants alternatives that don’t include damming the river.

“We hope to announce that plan within the next 60 days. It’s something that would extend beyond the proposed reservoir boundaries,” he said.

The local Audubon Society chapter and the Heart of the River Coalition are among other groups opposing the reservoir. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month faulted reservoir planners for not considering alternatives to damming the White River.

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