By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
A rainy morning did not keep about 50 environmentalists from kayaking and canoeing Saturday in protest of the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir.
The protesters started their tour at Canoe Country in Daleville and paddled down a 10-mile stretch of the White River for nearly four hours, to call attention to the river’s value for recreation and scenery.
From its dam head just west of Scatterfield Road in Anderson, the reservoir would back water up seven miles to Delaware County Road 300 South and encompass 2,100 acres.
According to preliminary estimates, the project would cost between $300 million and $400 million to build. Its primary purpose would be to supplement the Indianapolis metropolitan area’s water needs.
Clarke Kahlo, leader of the newly formed Heart of the River Coalition, said his group is concerned officials proposing the reservoir haven’t done enough to evaluate and study the feasibility of the project. He said the “paddle protest” was meant to educate the surrounding communities in addition to getting the attention of reservoir proponents.
“We need to see the math,” Kahlo said. “We feel like the discussions up to now have been highly scripted, and we can’t take everything we’ve heard on faith.”
Some of the paddlers also had ecological concerns. Botanist Kevin Tungesvick contributed to a study of flora in Mounds State Park. The study showed that the park has the highest quality of plant diversity in Central Indiana, based on a floristic quality index used in the research. He said he was convinced the rare plant life found in the wetlands would be severely harmed if the project moved forward.
Tungesvick also said the project concerns him fiscally, as well as environmentally.
“My initial reaction was, this is a 1950s solution in the 21st century. The time for building these reservoirs has passed,” Tungesvick said. “There are other ways to deal with some of the problems in the area.”
But the paddlers weren’t focused completely on sending a serious message. Elizabeth Mahoney came from her northside Indianapolis home near the White River to have fun with other nature-lovers.
“I’m a water person, and I love canoeing and kayaking. This area is important to me,” she said.
But Mahoney also shared environmental concerns. She said the project not only poses a risk to the ecosystem but also creates a human health-hazard because of pollution into the White River.
“What I’ve noticed about Indiana politics is, the environment usually loses out to business concerns, and I think we really need to realign our priorities.”
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