ANDERSON — At a special meeting Tuesday night, Rob Sparks admitted the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir has a negative impact side. It’s his job to smooth over the negative concerns, if he can, before the project moves to Phase II.
Sparks, the director of Anderson-Madison County Corporation for Economic Development and chief sponsor of the proposal, said he’s hoping to enter the second phase of the project, which will handle engineering and environmental aspects, quite soon. But he said he still doesn’t have a solid timetable.
Sparks and members of the Leadership Academy of Madison County led a panel discussion Tuesday night at the Flagship Education Center. About 150 members of the leadership council were in attendance and broke into small groups to discuss both the possible positive and negative impacts of the monumental project, which is estimated to cost between $350 million and $400 million to build.
After brainstorming their ideas, each group voiced them to Sparks and the panel for feedback and answers.
Some of the possible positive impacts brought up were neighborhood renovations and cleanups, tourism and economic benefits. Some of the possible negatives proposed were cost of the project, gentrification, displacement of current residents, traffic issues, wildlife impact and pollution.
Sparks admitted that one of the biggest issues could be the displacement of current residents in neighborhoods like Irondale. Right now, the city is working on gaining support for the project, and Sparks said it’s ultimately up to him to get the public on board.
”We think this will be for the better, but there is another side to the story. I’ve had passionate discussions with some people, and there are people being negatively impacted. We want to try to take care of them,” Sparks said. “But for the greater good of the community, we feel like this project should move forward.”
Tom Bannon of Anderson-Madison County Visitor’s Bureau agreed with Sparks, and said the project could positively affect the entire county, not just Anderson.
”It’s another component we can add close to Mounds State Park. It can add businesses, adds to quality of life. It adds more to do,” Bannon said.
The project is still in Phase I, according to Sparks. In a recent interview with The Herald Bulletin, he said he hopes to soon have about $600,000 shored up to perform a feasibility study for the reservoir. He’s hoping to secure the funds through a combination of grants and private donors. Once the study is done, Sparks said, he hopes the project will move to the next phase.
One of the other major issues Sparks addressed was the possible pollution concerns that could come from the project. He said many of those concerns will be identified by the feasibility study, but admitted there could be significant investigation and excavation of possible problem spots to eliminate potential problems.
“I don’t want to scare anyone, but I want to be realistic,” Sparks said.
The panel also indicated that while the reservoir will be compared to peer projects like Geist and Morse reservoirs, they also want to use the shortcomings of those projects as a benchmark for what not to do. Kyle Morey of Madison County Chamber of Commerce, said one shortfall of Geist Reservoir, in particular, is that the shoreline is almost entirely privately owned. Sparks said the Mounds Reservoir Commission will work to maintain plenty of public access points for the reservoir to eliminate a feel of exclusivity.
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