Anderson and Madison County and Regional News and Energy & Environment and Environment

Reservoir opponents warn of impact on rare wetland

April 6, 2014

Opponents of a proposed reservoir along the White River are warning that the project would destroy a nature preserve's unusual wetland that's home to rare plants and animals.

Kevin Tungesvick, a local restoration ecologist, said the proposed $350 million Mounds Lake Reservoir would inundate the Mounds Fen State Nature Preserve, which features a wetland that formed following the last ice age.

Tungesvick recently told members of the Robert Cooper Audubon Society that fens are a type of wetland "so hydrologically and geologically complex" they cannot be recreated.

"Fens are not created by men; fens are created by ice ages," he said.

The Robert Cooper Audubon Society is among the environmental groups that oppose the proposed central Indiana reservoir, which would be created by damming the White River in Anderson, creating a reservoir along what's now seven miles of free-flowing river.

The Audubon Society chapter argues that the project would not only flood the nature preserve but also inundate at least one third of Mounds State Park, a park known for earthworks built more than 2,000 years ago by the Adena-Hopewell people.

The Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society has raised concerns about the project's impact on both the state park and miles of forested river banks where pileated woodpeckers are common.

The reservoir's proponents say the 2,100-acre lake would improve flood control, create prime real estate for waterfront housing and boost property values and economic development in the Anderson area. It would also be a future water supply for central Indiana as the population grows.

State Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, has said he's concerned about the reservoir's impact on the park and urged that discussions about the project be transparent.

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the fen at the Mounds Fen State Nature Preserve was formed and is sustained by water percolating through glacial gravel deposits.

When that water reaches the surface, it is highly alkaline and creates a rare ecosystem.

The Anderson-area nature preserve was dedicated in 1980 because of its clean water and high biodiversity, The Star Press reported.

Tungesvick said that among the preserve's rare species are shining lady's-tresses — a member of the orchid family.

Ball State University biologists documented 478 plant species in the fen and concluded that its "floristic" qualities are of "paramount importance" to east-central Indiana's natural heritage.

The fen is one of only three Indiana sites for the gray petaltail dragonfly and is also home to the rare brown spiketail dragonfly, which inhabits seeps, fens and small, spring-fed streams.

A third rare species of the fen is the clamp-tipped emerald green dragonfly.

"I've had one hover in front of me in the wetland," Tungesvick said. "It's quite dramatic to see those great big green eyes staring at you."

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