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Feds raise several issues about proposed reservoir

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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."

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  • dredging
    Just another note on dredging. Eventually, every dam traps enough sediment in the reservoir that it loses a significant amount of its original water capacity. Funds rarely are allocated to dredge these reservoirs and help return them to their original capacity. If we are talking about water supply, would it not be a lot wiser to clean out the current central Indiana reservoirs rather than create another future maintenance debacle and algae sink? Again, that sounds too logical of an idea for Indiana politicians.
  • property taxes
    Please, dredging Geist and other central Indiana reservoirs would be a good idea, would be cheaper, and would not result in more property taxes. Because increased tax revenue for Delaware County is what this reservoir is all about. The economic development folks just see dollar signs for the local government, without realizing the long term maintenance costs of a reservoir. Housing shortage is not an issue. Central Indiana has tens of thousands of abandoned houses that could be knocked down or renovated and made livable. What these folks do not realize is how little economic development will come from this reservoir. So you will get a bunch of huge homes built around the reservoir, because the shores of Geist have been filled up and Hamilton County folks want a lakeside home. Great. What comes from that? A couple bait shops, a boat ramp, lawn care, maybe a vapid strip mall to sell stuff to the new residents? Once all the homes have been built on the shores and the construction jobs are gone, what sustainable business is left for the area residents? Not exactly great economic development plan, if you ask me.
  • if another drought hits, lets see the EPA make the same statements
    This is nonsense from the EPA and the Dept. of Natural Resources. Development is heading North on I69 towards Anderson and population will increase significantly. The future of a bat and eagle do not weigh in at all versus the future of economy, industry, people needing water and industry, etc. They should in no way be allowed to block this. It is foolish to think that a few bats and eagles are of more importance than hundreds of thousands of people and a water resource that is needed. Again, another example of government extending it reach to control the public at the cost of development, economy, industry. What about alternatives once the reservoir is built for the bat and eagles to maintain their population. I don't remember the last time I saw a bat or an eagle nor whether it made a difference in the lives of Indiana citizens.
  • alternative site
    There is another option for a reservoir in Madison County ....several years ago the Army Cor of Engineers were conducting a study to flood Sly Fork valley in southern Madison county. This is approximately a 19-mile valley, primarily farm ground, that was at one time highly thought to be suitable for flooding. The only significant obstacle is I-69 - if they were to flood this area it would have to be raised to accomodate. It seems economically (more) feasible to flood this area than large portions of the city of Anderson-for financial and environmental purposes. The Sly Fork area does not contain any state parks.... it is simply farmground.
  • Sorry Nick
    Going to have to bail yourself out. Sounds like a user tax is called for, not from the general public.
  • Geist Alternative
    Wouldn't it be smarter & cheaper to dredge Geist? Geist Reservoir at age 70 becomes clogged artery http://archive.indystar.com/article/20130929/LOCAL01/310060002/Geist-Reservoir-age-70-becomes-clogged-artery

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