The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local Business

March 24, 2013

Citizens Energy evaluates water needs

Utility buys Southern Madison Utilities, LLC

ANDERSON, Ind. —  Indianapolis is thirsty and needs water.

Not today. Not tomorrow.

But soon.

Rob Sparks, executive director of the Anderson Madison County Corporation for Economic Development, believes the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir could help slack that thirst.

“Citizens has sufficient water resources currently available to meet our short-term needs, said Sarah Holsapple, spokeswoman for Citizens Energy Group, which purchased Indianapolis Water 15 months ago. “Our long-term planning process indicates we will likely need an additional 30-40 million gallons per day (mgd) of water resources over the next 10 years.”

She said the utility is evaluating a number of options to address the Indianapolis metropolitan area’s growing need, including conservation, new rate structures, ground and surface water options as well as storage programs. Among the options under consideration is drawing water from the Ohio and Wabash rivers.

Citizens has tapped one Madison County source to meet its short-term needs.

The utility confirmed Thursday that it has purchased Southern Madison Utilities LLC, which was created in 2001 by Bill Hobbs, owner of Busby Drilling Co. of Anderson.

Talks between Hobbs and Citizens began in October and were finalized last week, Hobbs said. The utility’s largest wholesale customer is the town of Pendleton, according to Hobbs.

Mounds Lake Reservoir would begin at a dam on White River just east of East Lynn and 18th streets in Anderson, backing water up seven miles into Delaware County to around County Road 300 South and South High Banks Road.

According to Sparks, the reservoir would control billions of gallons of water in central Indiana, which could minimize the impact of future droughts and floods.

At the dam, the lake would capture and control more than 400 square miles of the White River watershed, a 67 percent increase over the combined watershed captured by Eagle Creek, Geist and Morse reservoirs.

The 2,100-acre reservoir would cost an estimated $350 to $400 million to build.

Although Citizens Energy would seem to be a natural partner for the Mounds Lake Reservoir project, it has made no commitments to the plan.

One reason is that planning is still in the early stages for so massive a project. Sparks is working on scheduling public meetings about the proposal, creating a 10-member commission comprised of elected officials from Madison and Delaware counties, Anderson and the towns of Chesterfield and Daleville.

After the creation of that commission a more extensive feasibility study would need to be completed and a funding partner found, Sparks said.

Citizens spokeswoman Holsapple said the utility has not considered or analyzed financial plans or partnerships related to the Mounds Lake proposals.

“We will continue to monitor the study as it progresses and consider the potential impacts on our system and central Indiana,” she said.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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