When the idea of the dam and reservoir was initially expressed by Anderson businessman Quinn Ricker, it was described as for the purpose of creating more economic development in the Anderson area. The Anderson Corporation for Economic Development quickly adopted the idea, calling it visionary. It has studied the concept for about 3 years and disclosed it publicly in March, 2013.
During the recent efforts to promote the idea to different audiences and agencies, the CED has expressed the intended purpose in different ways. At the April meeting of the Technical Advisory Group of Citizens Water, the CED’s Robert Sparks said the purpose was for public water supply for central Indiana– with no mention of any of the other rationales which had been previously stated in various settings– economic development, flood control, recreation, and lifestyle enhancement. There are other similar examples of the apparent tailoring of the rationale to the particular audience. In other instances, some rationales were indicated to be “out” (e.g. recreation and economic development), but were then surprisingly resurrected in the same meeting. Mr. Sparks has also publicly stated the CED’s intent to avoid supplying written material to public agencies because such documents would, by law (the Indiana Access to Public Records Act, I.C. 5-14-1.5), be subject to public disclosure.
Considering the CED’s tailored presentations and the lack of consistency of stated rationale, some of the classic sleight-of-hand idioms come to mind– bait-and-switch, Trojan horse, shell game, pig in a poke, etc. Essentially, they translate to Caveat Emptor— Buyer Beware!
The frequency by which the CED changes its expressed Purpose & Need makes the reservoir plan rollout seem like a bait-and-switch intended to confuse or deceive. Whether it’s deception or merely “waffling”, it does not inspire confidence for the public that the Purpose & Need case for the plan is either well-founded or publicly transparent.
At a future point, if/when the plan might be considered feasible from an engineering perspective and the promoters decide to push ahead, the CED might feel the need to retain the services of a firm specializing in public relations and government lobbying in order to garner public and political support and possibly also to obtain public financing and subsidies.. If that occurs, we’ll see if the plan’s proponents continue to manipulate the Purpose & Need rationales thus increasing public confusion, or if they’ll present a clear and consistent – and compelling– rationale.
Likely, they’ll ultimately choose to emphasize the rationale which purportedly might serve the greatest public good, i.e. more public water supply for Indianapolis. However, it will remain to be seen whether even a claimed water-supply need, with no other source alternatives evaluated, could justify the high public costs and many destructive impacts of the plan.