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Bat protections might not interfere with reservoir plan

April 3, 2015

There's a chance a proposed reservoir in central Indiana won't be affected by recent protective measures enacted for a species of bat by the federal government.

The northern long-eared bat's presence in the proposed 2,100-acre Mounds Lake Reservoir hasn't been confirmed by scientific study, The Herald Bulletin reports.

Tom Melius, Midwest director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said he isn't sure if the bat's range extends to central Indiana, but that projects can typically move forward when threatened species are present.

"We have learned there is almost always a path to move forward and protect the species," Melius said. "There are tools available."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday that it was listing the bat as threatened because millions have died in the Northeast, South and Midwest because of a fungal disease. The bat is not considered by the agency to be in danger of extinction.

Mounds Lake Reservoir would be formed by damming the White River in Anderson, extending to Yorktown. The flood area includes Anderson's Mounds Mall, about 400 homes and part of Mounds State Park.

Environmental groups have spoken out against the reservoir plan. Heart of the River spokeswoman Sheryl Myers said the habitat should be protected, regardless of whether the bat is found in the area.

A state-funded feasibility study for the reservoir says the Fish and Wildlife Service has asked that extensive wildlife surveys be done in future project phases.

The group backing the reservoir plan—the Corporation for Economic Development of Anderson and Madison County—has proposed local governments create a 12-member joint commission so that the project can move forward. But no local governments had taken action as of last month.

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