MONTICELLO – A congressman has asked a federal agency to reconsider an order on releasing water from a northern Indiana reservoir to protect riverbeds with an endangered species of mussels.
Republican Rep. Todd Rokita sent a letter Wednesday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying he worried that releasing water from Lake Freeman into the Tippecanoe River near Monticello will hurt businesses that rely on tourism to the lake, the Journal & Courier reported (http://on.jconline.com/Mlhca7).
“While the order may protect the mussel, it will also absolutely hurt the Monticello economy,” Rokita’s letter said.
Over the weekend, the agency ordered Northern Indiana Public Service Co. to maintain a minimum flow through its hydroelectric dam at the lake about 20 miles north of Lafayette.
Rokita, whose district includes the Monticello area, said he wanted the wildlife service to “find an alternative and responsible solution to protect the mussel population without damaging the Monticello economy during these tough economic times.”
Scott Pruitt, supervisor for the agency’s Bloomington Ecological Services Field Office, said NIPSCO rarely drops the dam’s water flow below the minimum set by the order.
Officials had predicted the lake could drop by a foot or more by Monday, but the newspaper reported the water level was down 6 inches or less on Wednesday.
Pruitt said the flow level requested by federal officials would protect the endangered mussel beds and should maintain the water level on Lake Freeman. He said weather would be the primary cause of lower water on the lake, not the federal order.
“We are in a drought, and stream flows are low everywhere,” he said. “I’m not a hydrologist, but you can look at the reservoirs around the state, and many of them are lowering because of drought conditions. ... It will increase when we go back to having rain.”