Two federal agencies are raising questions about a proposed $400 million central Indiana reservoir, including the plan's failure to address alternatives to damming the White River.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said several issues must be addressed before the Mounds Lake Reservoir project can move forward.
The EPA said two feasibility studies for the proposed seven-mile reservoir, which would run from Anderson into Delaware County, fail to address alternatives to the construction, The Herald Bulletin reported.
"Proposing the construction of a dam and reservoir at this point appears to skip the important step of developing a range of alternatives ... to meet a specific project purpose and need," EPA official Kenneth Westlake wrote in April.
He said that includes the alternative of not building the reservoir and instead continuing to use regional reservoirs, including Geist, Morse and Eagle Creek, or tapping groundwater supplies as a drinking water source.
Westlake also expressed concern about the reservoir's proposed purpose, and noted that the Phase I Feasibility study said the project would spur economic development in the region.
"At this time, selecting the construction of a new dam and reservoir to meet a proposed purpose of economic development in the greater Anderson area appears to be premature," he wrote.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed with the EPA that the proposed dam and reservoir project is unlikely to be the "least environmentally damaging" alternative.
Scott Pruitt, a field supervisor with the Fish and Wildlife Service, wrote that the reservoir could pose a threat to the habitat for the federally endangered Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat and potential bald eagle nesting sites.
"The project will devastate 7 miles of riverine aquatic habitat, converting it into a lake habitat which is unsuitable for many river fish and mussel species," Pruitt wrote.
He added that the proposed reservoir would inundate and destroy portions of four public parks, including Mounds State Park. Pruitt recommended that the Economic Development Corp. — the lead local agency on the reservoir project — conduct extensive wildlife surveys including habitat assessments, bird surveys, stream surveys and bat surveys.
The Economic Development Corp. is awaiting the results of a Phase II Feasibility Study.
"The comments from the federal agencies are in line with what we expected," said Rob Sparks, the development group's director. "We have received no pushback from the federal agencies. We need to take everything into consideration as we move forward."