Madison County considers new reservoir on White River

Economic development officials are proposing a reservoir on the White River about 50 miles northeast of Indianapolis that would be a catalyst for new investments and jobs and would include marinas, boat docks and restaurants.

"I think we have a good chance to get this project done if we have the political will," Rob Sparks, the Madison County Corporation for Economic Development director, told The Herald Bulletin.

Rob Freestone, a Chesterfield Town Council member said officials there are excited about the prospect. Town Clerk Deborah Dunham sees empty storefronts being replaced with thriving businesses. Throughout the area, many officials are at least interested in hearing more about the plan.

"At this point I am super positive about this," Anderson City Council President David Eicks said. "I think it has the ability to reshape Anderson, Chesterfield, Daleville and Delaware County."

Delaware County Commissioner Sherry Riggin called the proposed seven-mile long, 2,100-acre reservoir "very interesting," but said she's concerned about how relocations would be handled.

The Mounds Lake Reservoir would cost an estimated $300 million to $350 million to create. Sparks said the next step in the proposal process will be a series of public meetings for each of the affected taxing units. The meetings likely will be scheduled within 30 days, he said.

Sparks said in addition to spurring economic growth, the reservoir also could help relieve the impact of floods and drought through a 400-square-mile area of the White River's watershed.

Sparks estimated that it would displace about 400 homes, as well as several hundred thousand square feet of retail business space. Eminent domain could eventually be invoked to bring the project to fruition, but Sparks stressed that a strong community consensus is needed for the plan to succeed.

The owners of a mall and a restaurant that would both be displaced by the reservoir issued statements Friday in favor of the plan.

"This project has the potential to be a game changer for Anderson. We believe in Anderson and want nothing more than to see it prosper," said the Virgil Cook family, which owns the Mounds Mall.

The idea was first suggested by Ricker Oil Co. President and CEO Quinn Ricker during a Leadership Academy of Madison County class in 2010. Sparks was also a participant in that class. Ricker concedes he thought the idea was "nutty" when he first suggested it. But two weeks later, Sparks told him the concept, while massive, difficult and costly, was worthy of study.

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