Engineer says Mounds Lake Reservoir plan has fatal flaws

Plans to create Indiana's first new reservoir in more than four decades are fatally flawed because there would be no buyer for its water for 35 years, the former director of engineering for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources says.

Engineer Thomas Holman told a gathering in Yorktown recently that a proposal to dam the White River in Anderson and create the $440 million Mounds Lake Reservoir would have minimal impact on flood control and isn't needed to boost the water supply because it's cheaper to bring water from the Ohio and Wabash rivers.

The Corporation for Economic Development of Madison County is leading the effort to create the 2,100-acre reservoir between Anderson and Muncie. The project would flood an area that includes Anderson's Mounds Mall, adjacent business properties, about 400 homes and part of Mounds State Park.

Holman said he was surprised the project is being proposed in the urbanized area of Anderson and noted that the $440 million estimated construction cost doesn't include $110 million for administrative, design and construction management.

"If this was my client, I would tell them it was not a wise use of your money to continue with this," he told The Herald Bulletin.

The project has drawn widespread opposition from local and state environmental groups.

Holman said he doesn't expect the project to succeed because the area targeted for flooding includes a dedicated nature preserve in Mounds State Park that has never been decertified.

"If the permits were issued and the nature preserve decertified, there would be lawsuits that would cause years of delay and probable defeat," he said.

Lee Casebere, retired DNR assistant director of managing natural areas, said a dedicated nature preserve can't be converted to any other use. No such sites in Indiana have ever been decertified.

Central Indiana's reservoirs were built before 1970, with Geist dating to 1943, Morse Reservoir built in 1957 and Eagle Creek Reservoir constructed in 1969.

Mounds Lake's proponents would have to convince federal officials that the project is needed for water supply, which is increasingly a topic of discussion among central Indiana suburbs.

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