“Whether children or adults, we take care of what we love. Our sense of moral obligation arises from a feeling of kinship. The illusion of separation—between human and non-human, rich and poor, black and white, native and stranger—is the source of our worst behavior. The awareness of kinship is the source of our best behavior.”
“Whatever else we teach our children, we owe them an ecological education. We need to give them time outdoors, where they can meet and savor the world that humans have not made— pill bugs on a sidewalk, a swarm of tadpoles in a puddle, a tree for climbing, a sky aflame with sunset, a kiss of wind. Such contact gives promise of a life-long joy in the presence of nature. By the time they finish school, children who have received an ecological education know in their bones that the wellbeing of people depends on the wellbeing of Earth, from the neighborhood to the watershed to the planet.”
Top Twelve Reasons Why I Oppose the Mounds Lake Reservoir
12. It is a bailout.
This project is a bailout of the Cook family’s bad investment in the Mounds Mall. Apparently when their accountant told them their investment would soon be underwater, the Cooks failed to understand that phrase is not literal. But seriously, this is another example of bailouts for the 1% while middle and lower income families lose their homes, businesses, and recreational opportunities.
11. I am not a fan of retro!
A new reservoir in an almost entirely agricultural watershed in the 21st Century. Are you kidding me??
Have they never heard of sediment? Have they not looked at the problems of existing reservoirs? Have they not considered all of the possible unintended consequences of saturating the sand and gravel outwash soils in heavily developed area near downtown Anderson by raising the water table with the reservoir?
10. It inundates dump sites.
This reservoir inundates several industrial dump sites that predate the EPA and nearly all environmental permitting. Given the era when these dumps were created and the nature of the industries in Anderson at that time, how could there not be bad things in them? Yet they are promoting it as a water supply reservoir. Who wants the first drink?
9. It destroys existing infrastructure.
At a time when our infrastructure is crumbling and our city is in debt, they want to place a dam in an urban location that would require the relocation of miles of water and sewer lines and inundate at least 6 bridges. Yet their low-ball estimate for the project is only $ 350 million.
8. Social Justice
This project would require the taking by eminent domain of working class and low income neighborhoods for a private venture. The Irondale neighborhood where families have lived for generations would be entirely inundated.
7. Water conservation has not even been tried.
While the promoters of this project claim it is necessary to meet water supply demands in the future, there has not been a consistent effort to promote water conservation in the Indianapolis area. Only during droughts do we hear about efforts to reduce water use. Urban areas that are serious about water conservation have instituted programs such as a tiered billing program that provides water at a reasonable rate up to a certain quantity per customer, but charges a much higher rate if they exceed that quantity.
6. Water Quality
The removal of up to 1000 acres of forested riparian corridor would have devastating effects on the downstream water quality. Research elsewhere in Indiana has shown that forested corridors are very effective at improving water quality. Further, this corridor acts as a giant sponge, absorbing floodwater across the largely undeveloped floodplain of this stretch and discharging a steady stream of groundwater into the river, maintaining its flow during dry periods. Indianapolis already receives over 70 % of its water from White River through intakes in Carmel and the Water Company Canal. This project threatens to lower the quality of the water available at those locations.
5. Rangeline Preserve and Mountain Bike Park
This series of abandoned gravel quarries has been put to its best possible use as a mountain bike park. Volunteers have spent thousands of hours constructing some of the most technically challenging mountain bike trails in central Indiana. People from all over the state come to test their biking skills on these trails. This reservoir would inundate the entire park.
4. Mounds State Park and Mounds Fen Nature Preserve
Around one-third of Mounds State Park would be inundated by this proposed reservoir. Not only will the entire floodplain be inundated, the reservoir will penetrate deep into the park, inundating all of the deep ravines, as well as the park road to the campground. While the promoters of the reservoir claim it will only affect trail 5, in reality, portions of trails 2,3,4 and 6 will also be inundated. Further, the water level will go partially up the steep bluffs, resulting in water depths as much as 20 feet near the shoreline, creating a huge drowning hazard. Finally, the historic landscape that nurtured the Mound-building
cultures would be lost forever.
The best preserved fen in east central Indiana, which is a type of groundwater-fed wetland, is protected within the state-dedicated Mounds Fen Nature Preserve. The state nature preserve system is the highest level of protection under state law for a natural area. This fen would be inundated and destroyed by the reservoir. According to the Nature Preserves Act, a nature preserve may only be taken for another public use and only “after a finding by the commission of the existence of an imperative and unavoidable public necessity for the other public use”. Even then, it requires public hearings and
a signature by the governor. The environmental community in Indiana will rightly never allow this precedent to occur. If it did, it could facilitate the destruction of Rocky Hollow Nature preserve in Turkey Run State park or Pine Hills Nature Preserve in Shades State Park if some entity decided a reservoir was necessary on Sugar Creek in west central Indiana.
3. It destroys the best section of the upper White River
The densely wooded corridor and high bluffs make this stretch of the upper White River the most beautiful waterway to float in east central Indiana. Further, the relatively steep gradient keeps sediment scoured from the riverbed, maintaining an attractive cobble bottom through most of this stretch. During dry weather in summer and fall, the water typically flows clear, revealing a world of fish, mussel shells, turtles and invertebrates. This section is serviced by the popular canoe-livery, Canoe Country, which brings thousands people from all over the state to enjoy its beauty.
2. Faulty conclusions in the Phase I Feasibility Study
The Phase I feasibility study for this project claims to have found no “fatal flaws” in this proposal. Had they investigated the above issues more in depth, I believe they would have reached a far different conclusion. As just one example, the section on wetlands states: “mitigation on some of these areas will most surely be required, but should not be an issue and would likely follow the procedures and coordination as any project of smaller size.” These wetlands are not some cattail-filled ditch. They are rare and high quality wetlands protected within a state park and a dedicated state nature preserve.
I believe that the conscientious scientists in our regulatory agencies will look at this project with a very critical eye. These treasures are owned by all of the people of Indiana, not the politicians and businessman promoting the project. The flippant dismissal of this and other environmental impacts in the Phase I study is the “fatal flaw” of this project. Had these impacts been thoroughly assessed in the Phase I, this proposal would have quietly died before it was ever presented to the public.
1. Destruction of our community’s greatest assets is NOT an economic development strategy.
As outlined above, within a couple of miles of downtown Anderson are the most beautiful stretch of the upper White River, the most technically challenging mountain bike trails in central Indiana, and the natural and archaeological treasures of Mounds State Park. No other community in central Indiana contains these amenities so close to downtown. Anderson should be working to improve connectivity to these assets and using them to promote the city’s economic development. With careful stewardship, these assets can benefit Anderson in perpetuity while a reservoir’s lifespan is measured in decades. The young professionals that I work with would much rather hike, kayak, or mountain bike in the existing corridor than spend time attempting to untangle Eurasian water milfoil (the invasive weed prevalent in Geist) from a boat propeller on a reservoir.
In summary, it is difficult for me to imagine a more poorly-vetted project that has actually been presented to the public as a serious proposal. Based on my life-long exploration of this corridor and my detailed floral inventory of Mounds State Park, I believe this project is not environmentally feasible and will never happen. The longer the promoters of this reservoir keep deceiving the people of Anderson by telling them that it will, the harder they will fall.
Heart of the River Coalition
“Justice to future generations requires us to pass along the beauty and bounty of Earth undiminished. Our politics, economy, and media betray an almost infantile fixation on the present moment, seeking or selling instant gratification, oblivious to history. We need to develop a culture worthy of adults, one that recognizes our actions have consequences. If we take more than we need for the riches of the planet, if we drain aquifers, squander topsoil, or fish the seas bare, we are stealing from our children. If we fill dumps with toxic waste, fill barrels with radioactive debris, spew poisons into the atmosphere and oceans, we will leave our descendants a legacy of grief. Conservation aims to avoid causing harm to our children, or their children, or to any children ever.”
“Justice to other species requires us to preserve habitats where our fellow creatures may dwell. Through farming, fishing, hunting, and the harvesting of trees and other plants, we already use nearly half of Earth’s biological production. We have no right to claim so much, let alone more. Simple gratitude to other species for the nourishment, instruction, companionship and inspiration they have given us should be reason enough to fight for their survival. Concern for our own survival should lead us to protect the web of life by preserving a vast and robust range of habitats, from backyard gardens and schoolyard prairies to marine sanctuaries and deep wilderness.”
CED in poor position to properly assess reservoir feasibility
The Herald Bulletin’s October 12th report (Phase II study will answer many reservoir questions) on the planned dam and reservoir provided a needed update on the status of the Corporation for Economic Development’s planned Phase II feasibility study.
Does it make sense for the proposing entity (CED) to also assess the feasibility of the plan? No. The CED has an obvious conflict of interest and cannot be expected to render an impartial evaluation. Similarly, its main consultant, DLZ, Inc., hopes to land a design/build contract (if the proposal survives regulatory review and funding challenges). Is it plausible that the company will perform a thorough and complete feasibility analysis and impact assessment? No.
Critical observers are coming to understand that the driving impetus for the existing “water-industrial complex” (the collection of political and financial interests including elected officials, land developers, and engineering companies) is a single goal: unlimited water supply. Unfortunately, most seem to be uninterested in conservation or other demand-side management strategies and alternatives to more and more supply.
Water analyst Cynthia Barnett (Blue Revolution— Unmaking America’s Water Crisis, 2009) believes we have a way to go before a water ethic is embraced.
“In 2010, I went on a search of a water ethic for America… Although there were some hopeful signs, my search led me to another, harsher truth about a water ethic: Americans will embrace it only if it’s also supported by the people who make decisions about our water, from private companies to utility managers to governors. The fundamental belief in water as a national treasure to be preserved has to catch on at every level of society, including what I’ll call America’s water-industrial complex.”
Hopefully, the reservoir plan will serve as a means of helping policy-makers and utilities to focus on our need for a water ethic to ensure sustainable supply, rather than just reflexively seeking expensive new sources of supply
“A concern for justice also requires us to provide for everyone, regardless of location or income or race, the opportunity for contact with healthy land. All people deserve the chance to breathe clean air and drink clean water, to meet birds and butterflies, to walk among wildflowers, to glimpse the primal world of big trees and untamed rivers, rocky shores and starry nights.”