Wildcat Guardians’ position of opposition to the reservoir plan

The following recent letter was recently supplied by the Wildcat Guardians.  Visit their website at http://www.wildcatguardians.org

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“August 19, 2013

To Whom It May Concern,

The Wildcat Guardians oppose the construction of a dam and reservoir on the White River near Anderson, Indiana known as the Mounds Lake project. The project will destroy the free flowing river ecosystem and result in the displacement of people, the loss of cultural heritage, and the loss recreational opportunities.

The Wildcat Guardians support the vision of the White River as a free-flowing stream allowed to perform its ecologically valuable natural functions with minimal human encroachment. Additionally, we support the preservation in its entirety of the ecological resources of the proposed reservoir site including seven miles of mature riparian ecosystem with thousands of mature trees, and Mounds State Park, the home to dense communities of native plant species as well as one of the three fens still remaining in Indiana. It is certain that mitigation can neither restore nor replace these resources.

The Wildcat Guardians support the preservation of the home places and family heritage of the local residents. We hold the view that the proposed removal of families who have become established over several generations and desire to remain may be an abuse of eminent domain.

The Wildcat Guardians support the preservation of all sites, earthworks, and artifacts of the earlier inhabitants of the White River area that are threatened by the proposed project. We believe destruction of these cultural sites to be short sighted and a failure of trust to future generations.

The Wildcat Guardians value the White River as an ecological, aesthetic, inspirational, recreational, community, and cultural resource deserving of protection. We oppose the Mounds Lake construction project as unnecessary, ecologically disruptive, and as an abuse of the principles of eminent domain.

Sincerely,
The Wildcat Guardians

This letter of opposition to the Mounds Lake Project was approved by the Wildcat Guardian membership on August 19, 2013 and is submitted by David Inskeep, secretary, Wildcat Guardians”

Applying the concept of civic literacy to understanding and critiquing the reservoir plan

Much is being written recently about the need for improved civic literacy on the part of both young people and the general population. We’re told that the level of awareness and understanding about our governance and its foundational documents, e.g. the United States Constitution, is abysmally low.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana recently presented a panel discussion on the subject—“ The Constitution— Peruse it or Lose it”. The 3 panelists (2 educators and a state Senator) emphasized the need to improve civic education— and education in general – to better ensure that our public policies align with our fundamental values.

Panelist Sheila Suess Kennedy, professor of Law and Policy the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI and Director of IUPUI’s Center for Civic Literacy, presented interesting observations which are quoted here, excerpted from her recent essay in the ACLU-IN’s newsletter Carrying the Torch.(Spring, 2013)

“…this is a country based upon covenant, upon what I have elsewhere called the American Idea. … What we (Americans) do share is a set of values, and when we don’t know what those values are or where they came from, we lose a critical part of what makes us Americans.

“At the end of the day, our public policies must be aligned with and supportive of our most fundamental values; the people we elect must demonstrate that they understand, respect and live up to those values; and the electorate has to be sufficiently knowledgeable about those values to hold public officials accountable.

“In a country that celebrates individual rights and respects individual liberty, there will always be dissent, differences of opinion, and struggles for power. But there are different kinds of discord, and they aren’t all equal.

“When we argue from within the constitutional culture – when we argue about the proper application of the American idea to new situations or to previously marginalized populations — we strengthen our bonds and learn how to bridge our differences.

“When our divisions or debates pit powerful forces trying to rewrite our history and most basic rules against citizens who lack the wherewithal to enforce those rules, we undermine the American idea and erode social trust.”

The U.S. Constitution begins with “We the people..” The government is us.

The people we elect and hire to perform the necessary tasks of policy-making actually work for us. Thus we have an indisputable right to know what they are doing and to provide input and comment on what they might be considering. And we have every right to expect them to be responsive, forthcoming, and accountable in their conduct of the public’s business. This is essential for open government, civic engagement, and participatory democracy.

Many of the more specialized skills for practicing the principle of open government and thus also civic engagement have been acquired slowly and at times painstakingly by the Heart of the River Coalition. We’ve met with various officials over the past several months as we to try to learn more about the planned reservoir project. We’ve also encountered resistance, obfuscation, as well as police intimidation, and suppression of free speech at some public meetings. At several coalition meetings, we’ve discussed the rights of public access, using a comprehensive document titled Handbook on Indiana’s Public Access Laws, produced by the Office of the Public Access Counselor and the Attorney General.

Often, some officials have appeared to be in the dark themselves. They’ve explained that the dam/reservoir plan is being promoted by a private entity (the Anderson Corporation for Economic Development) which is not technically subject to the requirements of public access and public disclosure which are normally required of public agencies/officials under Indiana’s two main access statutes— the Open Door Law (Indiana Code 5-14-1.5) and the Access to Public Records Act (I.C. 5-14-1.5).

As the plan continues to be better understood, with more information more widely shared with the public officials who are being asked to look upon it favorably, the level of civic literacy/engagement has been improving— by both the plan’s skeptics as well as many public officials who better understand the issues and concerns– as well as the public’s inherent right to know. In the end, we expect policy decisions which best align with our foundational values and “the American Idea”.

Memo to Carmel and Rickers’ Oil re the proposed Rickers gas station at River Road

Carmel is currently deliberating on a petition by Rickers Oil to locate a gasoline station at 146th Street and River Road.  This is a pending zoning matter which is strongly opposed by many experts who are rightly concerned about the proximity of the site to the White River and its aquifer and water supply wellfield.  Citizens Water is also highly opposed.

Apparently, the land had already been zoned for such a use a few years ago.  This is now recognized as a big mistake.  The Rickers attorneys are pressing the point and apparently insisting that their client’s facility will not leak or spill.  This is BS.  You can’t remove all the risk.

Rickers is willing to jeopardize the water supply of Indianapolis.  A spill and contamination of the wellfield would be a very expensive problem.  The ratepayers would likely end up paying.

Our message to the Carmel Plan Commission and Council echos what was communicated to them in a previous meeting by a concerned official of Citizens’ Service Advisory Board;  “There is no right way to do the wrong thing.”

Tenet No. 5 (of 40) from A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders

“5.   The cost of … restoration is so great, and the result so uncertain, that we should make every effort to prevent the damage in the first place.  Although skillful work may help, all healing depends ultimately on the self-renewing powers of nature.  Our task is to understand and cooperate with those powers as fully as we can.”

Reimagining Infrastructure— Water Works report in Orion magazine, July-Aug issue

This is an excellent report by Cynthia  Barnett.   Water Works— Communities imagine ways of making every drop count

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/7586/

Indianapolis and its suburbs have not been a water-conserving community.   Citizens Water’s revenues depend on water sales (and sewage treatment quantities).  As one United Water (the sewage treatment contractor for Citizens Water) employee joked in a public meeting a year or so ago– “Flush twice– that’s how I get paid”.

Here’s one pertinent excerpt from the report:

“There is no question that the easiest, cheapest, and most ecologically sound options for communities involve working together to use less, rather than fighting each other to grab more.”   

Priceless

Yesterday, five of us canoed from Daleville (the Canoe Country livery) to downtown Anderson.   According the USGS gauging station, the river was running at 86 cubic feet per second— its lowest discharge rate so far this year, but still adequate for an enjoyable journey in beautiful weather.

When we reached the Irondale neighborhood, we came upon a father with his two young sons fishing from the shore.  I asked them about their position on the planned reservoir.  The dad replied that he hadn’t decided yet, but that they would lose their home.  Our reply was “That’s not the only thing you’ll lose.”

When we embarked on our trip a few hours earlier, we took a minute at the put-in to read a few pertinent words from a 1998 speech by Tom Dustin who was a much-respected Hoosier conservationist for more than 40 years–

“In a 1996 book entitled The Call of the River author Page Stegner provides this characterization:  “The call of the river is a complexity of motion and sound which extracts from mere mortals the wildest diversity of emotional response.  Awe, dread, tranquility, devotion, ecstasy.  The river is an abstraction of universal force.” 

            Yes, the call is all of that, but it is still more.  One does not have to conquer a river to feel its tug upon our souls; in the very end one is not even required to paddle it to feel its magic.  As with a distant wilderness that we may never see, it is a fulfillment to know that it is even there; and with that knowledge as our main reward, we are justified to fight like junkyard dogs to assure present and future generations that a good representation of these creations remain to enrich all life by its very existence.  That is a very satisfying framework of mind, heart and soul.  But it carries a heavy obligation for the forces afield bent upon their conversion, “improvement”, “mechanization”, “development”, are in fact determined to destroy these remnants of our heritage.  The evidence of this fact is found on every hand and is irrefutable”.   

We can appreciate the father’s ambivalence in the matter— he doesn’t know how much compensation might be involved from a buy-out of his home (if the reservoir plan is determined to be viable), so he hasn’t decided whether it would be in his best financial interest.  Yet did he also consider the high value of the beautiful stream setting and his ability to enjoy the afternoon which his children in a quiet, natural place?

We believe the value of that public good is priceless.

 

Tenet No. 3 (of 40) of A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders

3.    “The scale of devastation caused by human activity is unprecedented, and is accelerating, spurred on by a global system of nation-states battling for advantage, and by an economic system addicted to growth and waste.  So the work of conservation becomes even more urgent.  To carry on in the midst of so much loss, we must have faith that people working together can reverse the destructive trends.  We must believe that our species is capable of imagining and achieving fundamental changes in our quality of life.”