May proved to be a bad month for the White River in Anderson. Last month, Anderson’s Mayor Kevin Smith signed-off on a formal City Council resolution which gave approval for the Anderson Corporation for Economic Development to continue work on a Phase 2 of the feasibility study of the planned dam and reservoir.
Surprisingly, the Council’s resolution contained a clause which seemingly unconditionally endorsed the destructive plan . It reads:
“Whereas the development and construction of a reservoir in the Madison and Delaware Counties will have a positive effect on our community and be in the best interests of our citizens.” (Anderson City Council Resolution 8-13, adopted 5-9-13 and approved/signed by the Mayor on 5-13-13).
The recent corresponding resolutions by Chesterfield and Madison and Delaware Counties contained no such endorsement. Evidently, those officials had the good sense to strike that wholesale-endorsement clause from their draft resolutions before approving them.
It’s stunningly irresponsible for public officials to make such sweeping conclusory statements and official declarations before a great deal more information and analysis are performed on the proposal. More detailed (and objective) studies might indeed show that the plan would not have an overall positive effect and would not be in the public interest, or at least represent a combination of benefits and dis-benefits which would warrant further deliberation and public consultation.
The Anderson Mayor and City Council seem intent on destroying an entire river ecosystem on the basis of a cursory initial “feasibility study” prepared by the dam’s proponents. However, it’s way premature to say good-bye to the White River, as the Council’s resolution would, in effect, summarily do.
Later, on May 30th, the City disclosed that it would not provide any funding to support the planned July 24th RiverFest festival, and the event was cancelled. The festival has been an annual event organized by the White River Watchers, in conjunction with its riverbank clean-up on the same day. Apparently, the City had previously committed to providing financial support for the event. Nevertheless, it waited until now to pull the plug– at virtually the eleventh hour before the event.
Why the last minute reversal? City officials likely concluded that because they had just taken a position which would destroy the river, as they indeed formally resolved on May 9th, there would be little value, consistency, or joy in spending public funds to support the educational and celebratory RiverFest.
They also likely realized that a RiverFest this year would probably attract a a few vocal opponents who would be equipped with signage, petitions, literature and other forms of constitutionally-protected free speech and civil dissent. Some of these objectors might also be disposed to directing public criticism toward many elected Anderson officials for their sweeping and rebuttable presumption that a dam/reservoir would be in the best interest of the community.
So, anticipating at least the short-term negative political ramifications, the City (presumably Mayor Smith) decided to pull its support and kill the event entirely.