Hoosier Environmental Council opposes dam on White River

The Hoosier Environmental Council has added its name to the list of environmental groups opposing a proposed seven-mile long reservoir along the White River in central Indiana, saying it would have harmful and long-lasting consequences.

Madison County officials last year proposed the Mounds Lake Reservoir near Anderson, saying the would boost economic development, improve flood control, create prime real estate for waterfront housing and increase property values.  It would also be a future water supply for central Indiana as the population grows.

Tim Maloney, the council's senior policy director, said its concerns are similar to those raised by other opponents, including the impact on Mounds State Park, forest areas and the river's ecosystem. He said a free-flowing river and adjoining natural lands can provide a novel approach to sustainable economic development.

"It's an underappreciated gem of a natural resource we don't want to see drowned under a reservoir," Maloney said.

An environmental study is being conducted for the 2,100-acre lake that's estimated to cost between $350 million and $450 million to build. A 50-foot-high earthen dam would create a lake in Madison and Delaware counties slightly larger than Geist Reservoir on the northeast side of Indianapolis.

Supporters say the reservoir could also provide bike paths, fishing and other recreational activities.

Rob Sparks, the director of the Corporation for Economic Development, which is pushing for the project, told The Herald Bulletin that work continues on the feasibility study and the local group is comfortable with the information being obtained.

"This is a cost-effective solution to regional water-supply issues," he said. "It will also enhance other quality-of-life issues in the region."

Maloney said the Hoosier Environmental Council wants alternatives that don't include damming the river.

"We hope to announce that plan within the next 60 days. It's something that would extend beyond the proposed reservoir boundaries," he said.

Several other environmental groups have spoken out against the project.

Last month, 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.

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