Will the Army Corps be the eventual decider to nix or approve the dam plan?

According to research fellow Leonard Shabman of Resources for the Future, in the coming years, the U. S. Army Corps will likely be mediating the increasingly conflicting desires of water utilities and environmental groups and NGOs as climate change worsens, as is expected.   Shabman and several other researchers presented at RFF’s October 2, 2013 panel discussion regarding the future of U.S. water supplies.  Here’s the link:


His comments on the Army Corp’s role were made beginning at 65:00 minutes into the video.

The public trust relies upon good faith and ethical conduct by our state regulators who are charged with protecting our environment and thus our health and safety, as well as the habitats and welfare of other creatures in the Creation.  However, as a practical matter, it’s not difficult to envision a scenario in which the Anderson dam proposal is arbitrarily approved at the state level by IDEM (the Sec. 401 Water Quality certification) and the IDNR (the required permit for Construction in a Floodway).  Recent Indiana governors have exerted a tremendous amount of control over the decisions of their environmental professionals in the regulatory agencies as a matter of “friendly persuasion”— or more probably, command-and-control.  Their dutiful, appointed agency directors know how their bread is buttered.  They also know that resort to the courts by disappointed opponents is also problematic from both a financial and legal perspective.  Litigants must go up against the virtually unlimited legal budgets of the state of Indiana and private corporations.

We’ve heard numerous expressions of skepticism about the viability of the dam from some technical staff of the regulatory agencies (at both the state and federal levels). However, in the end, these people will be loath to fall on their swords by opposing the dam.  There will be great pressure to eventually go along with what the Governor directs.

To speculate a bit, irrespective of its feasibility and viability, Governor Mike Pence will likely push hard for the dam, just as former Governor Mitch Daniels pushed the new-terrain I-69, and just as he directed the then-DNR director, Kyle Hupfer, to approve the permit for the Center Properties’ floodway fill of White River at 96th Street in Fishers in 2007 to facilitate the development of a large retail mall.  (After 8 years of subsequent litigation by environmental groups and a recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by the developer in March, 2013, the big retail (now mixed-use) center remains unbuilt— 17 years after the site was rezoned in 1996 by the Town of Fishers).

The main responsibility for critically and objectively scrutinizing the dam/reservoir plan might well fall to the Federal government via its permitting authority under Sec. 404 of the Clean Water Act.  The scope of such review will remain to be seen. However, under the National Environmental Policy (NEPA) Act, it’s also required to consider alternatives to the proposed action.  Will the Anderson CED consider alternatives to its proposed dam?  Not very likely— a reservoir is what it’s gunning for because only that would address (but not satisfy) its main objective—which is economic development.  The public water supply purpose is mere window-dressing.

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