Late last year, Heart of the River’s Sheryl Myers made comments to the Anderson City Council about the many high hazard (high risk) dams in Indiana, and urged the Council not to create another one.
Unfortunately, if you live in an area near one of Indiana’s dammed rivers, you will not likely be able to access public records which show whether you would be flooded or swept away if the upstream dam should catastrophically fail.
The Citizens Water utility, a Public Charitable Trust in Indianapolis, recently completed a study of the condition of its several dams. One of the outputs was a series of maps identifying the downstream areas of inundation if the dams should fail.
I regularly attend the Technical Advisory Group meetings of Citizens Water on behalf of the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations. When I requested a copy of the maps, Citizens was advised by its in-house legal counsel that the maps should not be publicly disclosed because they might constitute a security threat in the wrong hands, i.e. terrorists might use the information to select or prioritize targets. Never mind that the actual locations of the dams themselves are obvious.
It would be interesting to determine if the Madison County CED would take the same position. Would it identify the areas of inundation if asked? Probably not. It is, after all, currently trying to sell the idea of a dam and reservoir to local officials. Downstream property owners would be left in the dark about whether they would be flooded in the event that a White River dam, if built, should fail sometime down the line due to water piping or other hydro-geologic or seismic conditions or to design/construction flaws. Like the deadly pollution plume unleashed by the Guide Corporation and its environmental consulting firm in 1999, which killed all White River life for 50 miles, we-the-people-on-the-receiving-end would be left to accept a catastrophic dam failure as just another unforeseen discharge event from Anderson to its downstream neighbors in central Indiana (the neighbors whose lawns are heavily watered during the dry months). While there might be culpability and subsequent legal liability for fines, penalties, and damages, it would take years of litigation to sort it all out.