River protest set for proposed central Indiana reservoir

Opponents of a major reservoir being proposed in central Indiana are planning a protest aimed at highlighting what the project would put under water.

The newly formed Heart of the River Coalition will hold what it calls a "protest paddle" starting from Daleville on Saturday, with kayakers and canoeists covering several miles of the White River near Anderson, The Herald Bulletin reported.. Organizer and environmentalist Clarke Kahlo said the group is trying to build public awareness of what would disappear if the reservoir is built.

The proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir, estimated to cost between $300 million and $400 million to build, would back up 7 miles of the river in Madison and Delaware counties, covering about 2,100 acres. That's slightly larger than Geist Reservoir near Indianapolis.

Kahlo and other river advocates are concerned about the thousands of acres of private and public land that would be flooded, including a significant portion of Mounds State Park, about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

"Not only will it heavily impact the significant historical and cultural resources in the area, but the high financial burden to massively reconfigure existing infrastructure, utilities, roads, and bridges has not been thoroughly examined or publicly vetted," Kahlo said.

Advocates of the project say creating the new reservoir would improve flood control, create prime real estate for waterfront housing and boost property values and economic development in the Anderson area. The reservoir could also provide bike paths, fishing and other recreational activities for the public, and help supplement water needs in the Indianapolis metropolitan area.

The Daleville and Chesterfield town councils have approved non-binding resolutions of support for continued study of the proposal. The county commissioners for Madison and Delaware counties are expected to consider similar resolutions next week.

Rob Sparks, executive director of the Anderson-Madison County Corp. for Economic Development, said he hoped to meet soon with Kahlo and his group to discuss their concerns. Support for the project has been building.

Sparks said the reservoir would create a new environment, ecosystem and habitat for wildlife and stabilize river flow during times of drought.

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