Before dams are built, bridges reinforced, homes razed and a reservoir becomes a reality, residents have questions about the Mounds Lake Reservoir project.
This was evident last week when more than 350 people turned out in Chesterfield for the first of three public meetings about the proposal. The 90-minute discussion was led by some of the organizers responsible for the project.
The turnout was a good indicator of the interest that the reservoir is generating. The Madison County Corporation for Economic Development is making tentative plans for the reservoir to cover about 2,000 acres of surface area, extending about seven miles from southeastern Delaware County to Scatterfield Road in Anderson. A current price estimate is between $350 million and $400 million.
As important as the turnout are the questions being asked by residents, hungry for specific answers to such concerns as possible environmental damage to Mounds State Park or the spiritualist Camp Chesterfield, both lying in the floodplain along White River. Organizers noted that while not every question can be answered currently, they will make efforts to respond via the website, moundslake.com.
Organizers must be quick and forthcoming in delivering answers. If a concern can’t be addressed, the planners need to acknowledge that they will find an answer. Transparency is vital to this innovative project.
Communities around the country will be looking at how the economic development group handles its public relations successes and problems — both are bound to occur.
For now, the public should continue to pack these meetings and seek information on all sides of the reservoir issue. Each question is important, but the key is for organizers to be fully transparent in describing the project’s impact, costs and mission.