USFWS: planned reservoir would “devastate”!

It’s reassuring when regulatory officials communicate unequivocally in defense of the environment.

The “early coordination” (pre-application) comment letters of two Federal regulatory agencies are strongly supportive of protecting the environment and the critters.  (USEPA letter dated 4-14-14 and the USFWS letter dated 4-24-14).  Notably, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s letter declares that the planned reservoir “will devastate 7 miles of riverine aquatic habitat…..”

When I think about the word devastate, I think of “destroy” but with added emphasis.  Indeed, one definition tends to confirm:  “To devastate: “to destroy or ruin something or to cause someone to be overwhelmed with grief”.  It’s a sure bet that if the planned reservoir were eventually pushed through, there would be much grief and loss (emotional and physical) on the part of many people and other wildlife populations.  Thus the term is entirely appropriate.

Back in 2006, the Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis hosted an environmental art exhibit titled “devaSTATE” which featured many interesting and provocative artworks spotlighting the damage to nature caused by man.  At that time, Indiana was ranked 48th in environmental quality. Have things improved?

In 2011, a group called 24/& Wall Street provided an updated survey.  In ranking Indiana next to last in greenness, here’s what it said:

“Indiana’s main source of power production is coal. In fact, Indiana is home to the country’s largest coal power plant, the Gibson Generating Station. As a result, the state is tied with Ohio for having the lowest percent usage of renewable energy sources in the United States, with a mere 0.7%. Additionally, the state has some issues with pollution. It releases the greatest amount of toxic chemicals into waterways, releasing over 27 million pounds in one year. The second greatest amount, from Virgina, was significantly less at just over 18 million pounds.”

And in a 2010 consumer survey of greenness, Indiana ranked last.

As native Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut famously quipped (in his novel Slaughterhouse Five), “So it goes”.   Translation: Bad stuff keeps happening and we adjust as needed.

Re the planned dam and reservoir, the Heart of the River coalition seeks to prevent a destructive action, and we’re not willing to subscribe to Vonnegut’s fatalistic lament.

Looking ahead, can our Federal regulatory agencies withstand possible pressure from the Indiana congressional delegation to approve permits (if the Madison County CED tries to push ahead)?  There are too many examples in the environmental arena where good science and best policy/practice were trumped by pure political pressure to issue permits.  Time will tell.







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