The Herald Bulletin

March 18, 2013

Proposed reservoir would be subject to intense scrutiny

Multiple agencies would review plans

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — From the Department of Homeland Security to several divisions of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, a diverse alphabet soup of regulatory agencies will have a hand in deciding whether to build a new reservoir here or not.

But a lot of things have to happen before any of those departments can begin poring over construction plans for the Mounds Lake Reservoir unveiled by the Anderson/Madison County Corporation for Economic Development last week.

Elected leaders from two counties, Madison and Delaware, plus Anderson, Chesterfield and Daleville would have to agree to create a 10-member Mounds Lake Commission to pursue the project, said Rob Sparks, executive director of the CED.

The commission would have to complete a so-called phase II feasibility study that would include more detailed engineering and environmental reports, and review something called a “Smart Water” option in which Mounds Lake would feed Morse and Geist reservoirs to maximize water levels with surplus flow from White River. That study would cost $300,000, Sparks estimates.

But wait, there’s more. Much more. Like a regional, national or international business or utility interested in becoming a partner in or controlling a major water resource in central Indiana and finance the $300 million to $400 million cost of development.

Citizens Energy Group, which owns Indianapolis Water, would seem the logical choice as that partner, but a Citizens spokeswoman said executives are aware of the proposal, but that’s it. The utility has made no financing commitments.

Code named “Project Oasis” when first conceived in 2010, Mounds Lake would rely on the White River for its water supply.

A 2,500-foot-long, 50-foot-earth dam would be built just east of East Lynn and 18th Streets in Anderson, backing water up in Delaware County to around County Road 300 South and South High Banks Road.

Only when financing is in place could the intense regulatory reviews begin.

At least four divisions of DNR, water, fish and wildlife, law enforcement, and historic preservation and archeology (because of the potential impact on Mounds State Park) would likely be involved, said DNR spokesman Phil Bloom.

At least two divisions of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, water and land quality, would evaluate permits looking particularly at mitigation issues with at least two landfills in the river valley, Sparks said. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could decide to conduct its own review to monitor IDEM’s procedures.

Homeland Security would evaluate safety, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would address flood issues, likely doing so in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

While the proposed lake would not materially impact Anderson Municipal Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration probably would participate in discussions.

And because the proposed lake would require relocating state roads, the Indiana Department of Transportation would have a hand in reviewing plans.

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