The Friends of White River’s statement of opposition

The board of the FoWR recently adopted the following position statement:

The Friends of White River oppose the proposed Mounds/Anderson Dam.

We consider the loss of a free flowing stream near our area to be a huge cost to pay for a reservoir with unknown/questionable water quality. Fishing and recreational opportunities will degrade. As the river exists now, there are fine canoeing and kayaking opportunities. Our White River is presently teeming with small mouth bass and other game fish, and many people enjoy fishing there.

Agricultural and residential run off make this a poor solution to store water for urban uses. Unknown and non-verifiable industrial dumps located in the area will further degrade water quality. Citizens Water has studied future needs for Indianapolis, and announced that present sources and strategies will stand in good stead for at least the next 25 years. Evaporative losses of a reservoir with such a large surface area also negatively impact feasibility.

We believe the dam will provide little flood control benefit to Indianapolis. Much of our natural flow presently comes from streams that are downstream of the proposed dam site.

Board of Directors, Friends of the White River, May 21, 2014”

It’s entirely fitting that the group would take such a position.  We’ve often wondered why it has not acted sooner.  Perhaps the May 12th panel presentations provided additional rationale and encouragement. 

Not to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, but we also wonder why their statement is silent on the issues of riparian and forest protection, as well as needed wildlife habitat preservation.  Those are huge potential negative ecological impacts. 




Will the water-industrial complex permit inclusiveness in regional water planning?

A recent IURC (Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission) report urged regional water supply planning in central Indiana, as follows:

In the growing metropolitan area of central Indiana, … there is no ‘water management plan’ for the regional water resources.  … This area should receive highest priority for evaluation.”   (2013 Water Utility Resource Report: A Look at Indiana’s Water Supply and Resource Needs)

In response to a recent inquiry about the status of regional planning, Citizens Water’s  communications manager indicated that he would consult with its personnel and report back with a description of who is doing what.  He also offered that Citizens wants to be a leader in regional water planning.

Considering that exercising leadership in a complex and ongoing process usually requires substantial organizational capacity, the question arose about which other entities might also seek to have a seat at the leadership table. Several come to mind: The Upper White River Watershed Alliance (a 16-county consortium of local governments, utilities, universities, and private producers), the Central Indiana Council of Elected Officials (and its organizing entity the Urban land Institute/Indiana), and the Service Advisory Board (an advisory group of municipalities).  These groups have water interests to advance or protect.

Will these groups, if operating in positions of leadership and hence control, deign to open the door to community groups and interests not affiliated with the water industrial complex or the prevailing political machinery?  We shall see.  For Citizens Water’s part, as a public charitable trust, it should promote diversity and inclusiveness. The others have less of a public foundation and perhaps more individual motivations.  

Will the IURC encourage or require the regional planning process to be open and inclusive to permit all points of view to be heard?  Its 2013 report does delineate community participation as a key element of Integrated Water Resources Management, but not specifically for regional water planning.  Perhaps it can be presumed. But it’s not necessarily assured. 

Broad participation in water management planning should be more than just the creation of a list of acceptable “stakeholders” to the exclusion of all others.  If not, the planning may end up with the same ol’ solution of more-supply without meaningful evaluation of the other alternatives. 



Remember your hometown river today

“Our history is understood by riverine chapters, and it is impossible to know American life without constant reference to rivers.  And it is still to them we look for restoring some poetry to our national life in the face of an increasingly platitudinous present.”                                               

Thomas McGuane, 1993. 




Videos of May 12th panel now posted on HTR’s website

Here’s the link to the You Tube playlist for the videos of each panelist and the Heart of the River coalition’s welcoming remarks.

The civic conversation about this reservoir plan was greatly enhanced by the four panelists’ presentations and by the citizens’ comments and questions which followed.  We are indebted to the four panelists:  Donald R. Cochran, archaelogist; Tony Fleming, hydrogeologist; Morton J. Marcus, economist; and Donald G. Ruch, biologist.  Also, special thanks to the moderator for the evening, Donald Boggs of Anderson, and to Douglas and Marian Berky for their several contributions in time and talent.

For more information , visit




Reminder of upcoming Protest Paddle– Saturday, May 31st

Heart of the River to sponsor Protest Paddle May 31st

The public is invited to join Heart of the River on Saturday, May 31st for a 9-mile float down the beautiful section of White River that would be destroyed by the planned dam and reservoir.  Maps showing significant historic and archaeological sites along the way will be included.  Paddlers should meet at Canoe Country in Daleville between 9 and 10 am that morning.  The cost will be $28/canoe with return transportation provided.  Please call Canoe Country, 765-378-7358, to reserve a canoe.  Sturdy shoes and sun protection are recommended.  

Fathoming the shallowness of the CED’s reservoir plan

A few weeks ago, the Upper White River Watershed Alliance released a position statement of concern about the planned reservoir.  It enumerated seven potential high-impacts on the natural and cultural fabric. It cited its “deep knowledge” about the watershed, and urged the promoter to undertake comprehensive, holistic analysis of the plan.

The Alliance is well known and respected has been operating for about 15 years.  With the depth of knowledge available, it’s curious that the CED did not initially seek to consult before it launched its plan and before it sought $650,000 in public funds for a phase 2 study.

It’s an insightful position statement and a welcomed addition to the increasing chorus of skeptical voices. However, the statement comes more than a year following the announcement of the plan.  Perhaps if the UWRWA had issued their statement earlier – last summer, for instance – it might have persuaded the policy-makers in Governor Pence’s office to be more circumspect, and restrained, in the gift of such a big grant for the CED’s phase 2 study. 

Perhaps not.  If, as posited by some, the grant was simply a pay-back to the DLZ engineering firm for its previous political support, then no amount of a priori expertise and deep knowledge would be sufficient to prevent such a colossal waste of public funds.  We’ve seen this over and over in Indiana‘s corrupt politicized system.

The CED’s shallow, i.e. ill-defined, plan is the virtual antithesis of the kind of comprehensive plan which the UWRWA advocates.  In these times of easily available research and best practices, it’s hard to fathom how the CED could be so shallow– that is, until its self-serving motives are recalled.  

Can the reservoir plan survive the scrutiny ultimately applied via deep knowledge?  Can it survive the opposition of those who would exert “friendly persuasion” or even “deep green resistance” (to borrow Derrick Jensen’s book title)?  Time will tell. Politics can always trump accepted science and ecological common sense.  In the interim, DLZ will likely spend down the grant to the last nickel.  

Reservoir as more brain drain

The CED has defended its dam plan largely on the basis of flow augmentation— during droughts, the impounded water would be released to augment low flows in the White River so that Indianapolis and its green suburbs won’t need to conserve as much. 

But what about the impact of the plan on the brain drain in Indiana? Politicians of all stripes have been falling all over themselves to create amenities for the “creative class” of young skilled workers who seek stimulating and dynamic urban environments according to author Richard Florida and others.

A recent letter to the editor of The Indianapolis Star by Marc Lame, clinical professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, raised the issue of the brain drain in the context of the signal which the leadership of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management recently sent when a senior administrator refuted man’s role in climate change.

Professor Lame asked: “Just what are our young scholars supposed to think when they are asked to remain in a state whose leadership seems to propagate the idea that it is OK to be near the bottom on the environmental protection and education, and our top ranking is for meth labs, smoking, and obesity?”

Numerous groups have expressed strong concerns about the negative environmental impacts of this plan, most notably the Heart of the River coalition, Indiana Forest Alliance, Indiana Archaeology Council, and the Upper White River Watershed Alliance.  To review their statements, visit  These concerns were amplified by the public panel presentations of May 12th in a program in Chesterfield.

Professor Lame raises a valid point. If this destructive boondoggle is eventually approved, it would send yet another unmistakable message that high-quality, authentic environments don’t matter to policy-makers in Indiana.