Gov. Mike Pence said he sees merit in the proposal for construction of a reservoir on the White River in central Indiana that could cost $450 million.
The prospects are uncertain for the proposed Mounds Lake between Anderson and Muncie, but Pence said the project could offer both an important water resource and an economic development opportunity.
"The vision for that reservoir serves both the long-term water interests of the state of Indiana, something we're talking more and more about . (and) the opportunity to develop this region in a fresh way that will attract new investment and attract people to the community," Pence told The Herald Bulletin of Anderson.
The reservoir would be created by damming the White River for a lake stretching for seven miles in Madison and Delaware counties.
The proposal has gained support from several economic development agencies in the region and the initial backing of the Anderson City Council, but officials in neighboring Delaware County have voted against supporting it.
The project's opponents, including Heart of the River and the Hoosier Environmental Council, say the reservoir isn't needed for water supplies and warn that the project would waste millions of dollars, flood a stretch of the river, destroy wildlife habitat and threaten historic sites, including some in Mounds State Park.
The state provided $600,000 to help pay for the first two feasibility studies for the reservoir project and could provide additional funding for a more extensive study estimated to cost $28 million.
"We'll look at what is appropriate and talk with members of the General Assembly who represent this area." Pence said. "We provided some resources for the first two phases and will take a fair look at it."
A long-term water strategy is necessary, he said, as the state population grows. "We want to make sure we have the kind of water resources in our state that will meet the broad range needs of the people in our state."
The planned 50-foot-high earthen dam in Anderson would create a 2,100-acre lake slightly larger than Geist Reservoir on the northeast side of Indianapolis.