Letter to Herald Bulletin– Reservoir promotion has circus approach


July 24, 2014
Letter: Reservoir promotion has circus approach
The Herald Bulletin

P.T. Barnum is starting his tour to promote the reservoir by going to all the towns surrounding the dream. Rob Sparks is this town’s P.T. Barnum.
To promote the circus, he travels to the towns drumming and boasting of all the exciting things to come.
I’m not for or against the reservoir, I’m against the way it has been promoted.
The very first article on the reservoir many months ago was P.T. Sparks telling us how the reservoir would be stocked with bass, bluegills and crappies for us to harvest. It was a hook, now we are getting the line, and the next step will be the sinker. We will swallow it all as human nature takes over.
All politicians are good at telling us what we should hear.
The presentation of this whole reservoir has many red flags, especially with information coming at us with hype and a circus atmosphere.
Ronald K. Jones

HEC’s slick slogan: “all. together. now.” Oh really?

In 2010 the Hoosier Environmental Council re-branded and re-imaged itself to appear more broadly appealing, especially to the corporate mindset. Its new slogan appears on its letterhead and website masthead.

It suggests a warm and fuzzy feeling of inclusiveness and collaboration. It’s a slick brand identity. But it’s bunk, as recent experience re the planned reservoir reveals.

The HEC has acted in an aloof, imperious, and self-aggrandizing way since the beginning of the dam review process in April of last year. It started with the phone calls and requests for assistance over a year ago from several Heart of the River coalition participants. Their calls were ignored or deflected. Worse, HEC’s executive director even suggested to one caller that perhaps a compromise “green dam” might be appropriate.

More recently, we saw in HEC’s recent news proclamation concerning the planned dam, that HEC is “all about HEC”. It didn’t even mention the HTR coalition— our grassroots coalition which has worked for 14 months to organize, outreach, research, and educate. Neither did the HEC’s accompanying lengthy position paper. There was not one word of acknowledgement for the grassroots volunteer group which has led the charge and done a tremendous amount of arduous early spade work. And not one mention of concern for the many residents who would be displaced by this land and water grab. HEC’s proposal seeking funding for the design charrette (a portion of which was read over the phone to me) repeatedly emphasized that the project would aid HEC’s development efforts to increase fundraising.

Of course, advocacy organizations are free to take their positions independent of what other groups might do. In that sense, it’s understandable for the HEC to seek to appear that it has taken its position of opposition as an independent entity– despite the fact that 13 prominent conservation groups of various stripes have already taken positions of opposition.

As we also know, the big environmental organizations need a constant infusion of dollars to fund their activities and staff, and thus it’s no surprise that the HEC would resort to such self-aggrandizing tactics. In most of its communications, it boasts that it’s “the largest environmental organization in Indiana”. Yet neither its large relative size nor its slick PR slogan instills much credence that the HEC actually operates in a collaborative way.

I’m recalling Deliverance, the famous 1972 film about a last canoe trip before an imminent inundation of the river caused by the construction of a dam in Georgia’s backwoods north of Atlanta, and Lewis’ (Burt Reynolds) blunt response to an unacceptable $50 offer by a local man to drive their two cars downstream to the take-out. His reply: “Fifty, my ass!” That aptly captures my reaction to the HEC’s “all. together. now.” slogan. As a former HEC board president, I’m disappointed to see the organization resort to such misleading claims of inclusiveness and collaboration.

Happy Anniversary, DNR White River recreation plan

Talk about the proverbial doldrums. This month marks the 35th anniversary of the July, 1979 DNR plan: The Recreational Potential of the White River— Martinsville to Muncie.

The detailed 2-volume plan analyzed the river from upstream of Muncie down to Martinsville. Unfortunately it was not implemented and DNR has no explanation at all for the lack of interest in realizing the plan. Your tax dollars hard at work again.

For more info, see post dated May 18th re Two Upcoming State Anniversaries.

Happy Anniversary!

Perhaps the current state administration will dust off the plan and recognize its unrealized value. That would remain to be seen considering that Gov. Pence has given $650,000 for the CED’s feasibility study for the reservoir.

One the other hand, if the feasibility study, due to be completed by year-end, concludes that the reservoir scheme is too problematic and costly, perhaps Governor Pence would direct the DNR to move forward with implementing the 35 year old plan.

Dan Sherry’s recent op-ed in Muncie’s The Star Press


Dan Sherry: Proposed dam would cause environmental havoc
Jul. 11, 2014 |

Written by Dan Sherry

Visiting my hometown Muncie last spring, I was shocked to see the April 1 Star Press article about the proposed dam on the White River in Anderson to create a Mounds Lake Reservoir.

I spent 38 years representing fish and wildlife interests in Tennessee negotiating development projects affecting those interests. Although impoundments of free-flowing streams were once commonplace, their numerous environmental impacts have made them a thing of the past in recent decades — especially on larger streams. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now conducts an active nationwide program to dismantle existing dams.
The Star Press article did a good job of describing the impacts the proposed dam would have on uncommon/rare species and their habitats. Having grown up in Muncie when the river was so polluted, it’s been heartwarming to see it cleaned up in recent decades.
A dam would do a lot to undo that. The warmer water within the impoundment would lead to lower water quality and inferior, pollution-tolerant aquatic life. Miles of the tailwater would be subject to water quality problems, and the reduced/inferior aquatic life that goes with them.
Below the dam, the natural flooding cycle that functions to purge/filter pollutants and nourish farmlands would be interrupted. The sensitive wetlands that depend on flood flows and harbor the most productive wildlife habitats would be significantly degraded. The dam would also block the passage of fish and aquatic life, replacing the high quality coolwater fishery (smallmouth bass, rock bass, et al) with a lesser quality warmwater fishery.
This kind of project typically benefits a few politically connected developers at the expense of broader public interests. Private homes would occupy a shoreline developed with tree-cleared manicured lawns, docks and retaining walls. This shoreline development would further degrade the lake’s fish and wildlife resources, despoil aesthetics, and create a de facto privatization of the lake in the eyes of the public — to whom these waters originally belonged and who may have paid for the project and its maintenance in the first place.
Finally, this project is basically impossible to permit. The proposed impoundment would constitute a violation of the Federal Clean Water Act and the Federal Water Quality Standards for Antidegradation. To the extent state and local environmental agency staff are politically allowed to speak out, I’m confident their views would mirror those of the feds.
Even if the project proponents could gain a platform with which to proceed, the compensatory mitigation requirements would be insurmountable and are surely not reflected in the $350 million price tag.
For starters, all impacts to streams (including tributaries and degraded tailwaters) would have to be mitigated. All wetlands within the impoundment, as well as those lost to normal flooding below the impoundment would also have to be mitigated.
For perspective, wetland mitigation costs roughly $40,000 an acre in Tennessee. Stream mitigation costs for even small intermittent streams in Tennessee is currently $240/credit — even more in some states. This means for example, an applicant would have to pay a mitigation entity $240 for each foot of just a tiny stream proposed for elimination in Tennessee. I don’t know the guidelines for Indiana, but can only imagine the mitigation price tag for the loss of seven miles of the White River, all of its affected tributaries, and degradation of miles of White River tailwaters.
Even if funds were available, there would be no potential sites for restoring that much of a major river elsewhere in Indiana. Then there is all of the impossible mitigation for rare species/habitats.
It’s not going to happen.

Dan Sherry was a fish and wildlife environmentalist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency from 1968-2008. He represented the agency negotiating all environmental/regulatory matters in Tennessee as those matters affected fish and wildlife interests. He has a bachelors and masters degrees in biology from Ball State University.

Doug Berky’s letter to the Muncie Star Press


Mounds Lake project and freedom
Jul. 1, 2014 |

As July 4th approaches, I am experiencing a different perspective on this celebration of our independence from tyranny. For many of us in this community, a dark shadow has obscured the very ideals called for in the Declaration of Independence. A small group of business people, none of whom have been elected to represent our community, are trying to put into motion a plan that would change the character and environment of our community by building a dam on the White River here in Anderson.
This plan, developed for years in secret, without consulting the community, will force at least 400 families from their homes. Regardless of the merits of this plan, such a decision should be made by the people, weighing the seriousness of infringing on the civil rights of members of our community because of a hoped for gain.
Those elected to represent us and protect our rights have asked no questions nor have they raised concerns or advocated for those whose rights will be abridged. Our elected officials have asked for no objective studies or information about the dam proposal or its effects on the health, environment and economy of our community. Join me next election in campaigning for those at state, county and city offices who will represent all the citizens of our community, regardless of their stock portfolios.
As July 4th approaches, I am grateful that the Declaration of Independence led to our Constitution, which provides me with the freedom of speech exercised here.

Extensive — and expensive — shoreline erosion control

A few weeks back, IDEM issued a Public Notice for a shoreline stabilization project for a residential property at Geist reservoir in Indianapolis. Here is what the homeowner proposes in order to received the required Sec. 401 Water Quality certification:

“The applicant is proposing to install a 220 linear foot granite block seawall with gravel base and steel anchor panels along the reservoir shoreline. Cobble and boulder stone will be placed along the toe of the block seawall to dissipate wave action. Additionally, a shorelines stabilization and naturalization planning plan is proposed both lakeward and landward of the boulder seawall t replace natural vegetation removed during construction.” IDEM 2014-177-30-AMM-A

Aren’t you glad you won’t be writing the check for that home maintenance project! Of course, with 220 feet of Geist shoreline at his residence, the applicant can likely well afford it.

Bank erosion and stabilization is a problem for many reservoirs because the water bodies are not natural and are frequently built on highly erosion-prone soils. It would be a big problem for a Mounds reservoir. We wonder if such inevitable long-term maintenance costs will be adequately accounted for in the CED’s phony “feasibility study”. Bet not!