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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 7:20 pm

The government - it's here to help

A plan to create a reservoir in Madison and Delaware counties looked almost unstoppable earlier this year, when Gov. Mike Pence offered his endorsement. Anderson City Council was enthusiastic. Multiple economic development groups hailed possibilities for the $440 million project. The state put up funds for feasibility studies.

But then government began to work the way it’s supposed to work. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the feasibility studies for the 2,100-acre reservoir skipped "the important step of developing a range of alternatives ... to meet a specific project purpose and need." EPA official Kenneth Westlake also expressed concern about the reservoir’s proposed purpose. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed with the EPA that the proposed project is unlikely to be the "least environmentally damaging" alternative.

Scott Pruitt, a field supervisor with the Fish and Wildlife Service, wrote that the reservoir could pose a threat to the habitat for the federally endangered Indiana bat, the northern long-eared bat and potential bald eagle nesting sites.

Concerned citizens began to do what they’re supposed to do. Park proponents objected to the effect the reservoir would have on Mounds State Park. Environmental groups joined a coalition, Heart of the River, to protest the project. The Hoosier Environmental Group joined in to protect the Indiana Nature Preserves Act, which was threatened by the project. 

Finally, an alternative was proposed – Mounds Greenway, a White River trail that would enhance enjoyment of the river at a fraction of the cost without the devastating environmental effects of the reservoir.

The case against Mounds Lake was too strong to survive votes by the Daleville and Yorktown councils. Citizen input and government worked just as they should.