More landscape subjugation (in Indianapolis) courtesy of the Veterans Administration

Crown Hill cemetery is located near White River in Indianapolis.  It has sold 15 acres of pre-settlement forest to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Just as the people of the Heart of the River coalition have devoted and expended a lot of heart into the defense of the river from the planned dam in Anderson, the folks of the Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors have lent heart to their fight to preserve the forest.  More info at indianaforestalliance.org and savethecrownhillwoods.com.

I was recently reading Scott Russell Sanders’ 2016 novel Divine Animal.  He poignantly describes our “subjugated landscape” in Indiana as follows.

“… he looked over the fields on either side of the highway…  The terrain was flat here, leveled by glaciers as far as he could see it was planted in corn and soybeans… It was a subjugated landscape. He knew that almost every acre within sight had been covered with hardwood forest when the first white settlers arrived, yet now the only scraps of forest remaining were spindly woodlots here and there.  Across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, there were millions of such acres once covered with great trees, nearly all of them cleared in a few decades with hand tools and muscle power.  And cleared not only of trees.  Passenger pigeons, Carolina parakeets, wolves, bison, bears panthers, and lynx were all driven from this part of the country or driven to extinction, along with the Shawnee, Miami, Piankeshaw, and other native tribes. Once we had exploited the continent from sea to sea, we began sending our soldiers anywhere on Earth that possessed something we wanted.  This bullying was an old habit, ingrained in us over three centuries, since the Pilgrims arrived in the New World with their muskets and their writ of ownership from God and king.

How could he explain this view of his nation, which he had arrived at slowly, reluctantly, through reading and reflection, and which ran so contrary to what he’s been taught in school, where the subduing of land, Indians, and beasts had been portrayed as the triumph of civilization over wilderness, where every U.S. venture had been justified as a crusade by the powers of light against the powers of darkness.

Scott Russell Sanders, Divine Animal, 2016

 

 

Reservoir maintenance, especially dredging, is costly

 

Citizens Water of Indianapolis recently applied to IDEM for authorization (a Section 401 Water Quality Certification) to dredge a large area of Morse reservoir over the next 20 years in order to regain a portion of the original reservoir capacity.   Morse turned 60 years old in 2016 and sedimentation from its tributary stream inlets and adjacent/upstream land disturbances (mostly urban development and agricultural operations) have significantly diminished water-storing capacity.  Citizens proposes to dredge 93 acres plus 4 acres of emergent wetlands.   Over the 20-year project period, it will remove upwards of 360,000 cubic yards of sediment.  Morse has a total surface area of approximately 1500 acres.

I asked Citizens about the cost of the dredging.   It reported:  For Morse, it budgeted $62,000 in 2016, $400,000 for 2017, and $650,000 for 2018.   No estimates available yet for subsequent years’ budgeted costs.   

For Geist reservoir, Citizens spent $504,000 in 2016 and has budgeted $400,000 for 2017.

Citizens Water should be commended for reversing this deferred maintenance and addressing the cumulative problem of capacity loss.  Citizens Water’s predecessor Veolia Water (a private operator), which operated the system under nominal city supervision by a Waterworks Board and staff for about 8 years during the Peterson administration, conducted no capacity dredging at all.   It does not appear that the Indianapolis Water Company/IWC Resources, Inc. which operated the utility throughout much of the 1900s, dredged much if at all.   Update:  Here is Citizens Water’s response to my inquiry– “IWC did dredge 121 acres of the reservoir in the mid-1990s to restore 788,505 gallons of capacity to Geist Reservoir. We do not believe Morse was ever dredged by IWC or Veolia.

Maintenance dredging to preserve capacity should be done periodically/selectively.  The summer drought and heat of 2012 caused precipitous and unsustainable drawdowns of the reservoirs (ridiculously, mostly for suburban lawn irrigation).  In addition, despite the fact that the reservoirs were built as water supply reservoirs, Citizens is bedeviled by the complaints of wealthy and vocal reservoir property and boat owners when water levels fall to the point of impeding boating.   Of course, these recreational reservoir users pay nothing to support the dredging.

In the future, public policy review of any proposed new reservoirs should include close consideration of the full costs of long-term maintenance.  Reservoirs once constructed, immediately begin filling with sediment.  This is exacerbated in agricultural areas where tilling hastens the rate of sedimentation.

As Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. said: “One of the fundamental flaws of human nature is that everybody wants to build, but nobody wants to do maintenance.”

 

 

 

 

 

Dams at center of the Devils’ world, and Happy New Year

Another year has passed and without any new information about what the Anderson CED might have in mind in the way of a Dam Plan 2.0.  The public has been advised, via a Herald Bulletin update report, only that other alternatives are been studied.  Likely the dam promoters are working behind the scenes to grease the skids for more public study-money to keep their consultants employed in the task of rationalizing and glamorizing a bad idea.

Meanwhile, the Heart of the River Coalition has incorporated (in late 2015) as an Indiana not-for-profit, organized for educational purposes.  Its regular On Nature columns are published in the Herald Bulletin, and its board of directors continues to be engaged in conservation issues.

As a Christmas gift, I received a recently published book titled Canoes– A Natural History in North America. It’s a beautiful book, rich in history and photography.  In his Foreword, John McPhee supplies pointed observations about dams–.

“In the view of conservationists, there is something special about dams, something – as conservation problems go – that is disproportionately and metaphorically sinister.  The outermost circle of the Devils’ world seems to be a moat filled mainly with DDT.  Next to it is a moat of burning gasoline.  Within that is a ring of pinheads each covered with a million people – and so on past phalanxed bulldozers and bicuspid chain saws into the absolute epicenter of Hell on earth, where stands a dam. 

The implications of the dam exceed its true level in the scale of environmental catastrophes.  Conservationists who can hold themselves in reasonable check before new oil spills and fresh megalopolises mysteriously go insane at even the thought of a dam. The conservation movement is a mystical and religious force, and possibly the reaction to dams is so violent because rivers are the ultimate metaphors of existence, and dams destroy rivers.  Humiliating nature, a dam is evil— placed and solid.”

Scenes from A Life in Canoes, the Foreword by John McPhee to Canoes— A Natural History in North America by Mark Neuzil and Norman Sims