By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON – Another environmental group has voiced opposition to the proposed Mounds Lake reservoir based on concerns over the potential impact on Mounds State Park.
The Robert Cooper Audubon Society, which represents 500 members in Madison, Delaware, Henry, Grant, Jay, Randolph and Blackford counties, stated the proposed reservoir would “exact a heavy cost to the natural environment by inundating at least one-third of Mounds State Park."
Marty Benson, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said DNR has not taken an active role in the discussion concerning the reservoir.
“Nothing has been formally done,” he said. “Until the permits required are applied for the DNR will not have an active role.”
State Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said the process surrounding the proposed reservoir has to be transparent.
“My concern is the impact on Mounds State Park,” he said. “The state park is an important asset for community and Indiana. We need to know what the impact will be and the impact on the White River.”
Lanane said residents should insist on transparency throughout the discussion period on the proposed reservoir.
“There are still a lot of questions that need to be resolved,” he said.
Among the consequences would be the loss of shaded hiking trails along White River that would be submerged, the group said in a press release. Another concern is that the Adena-Hopewell Indian mounds would be subjected to a greater threat of flooding and erosion.
“The complete destruction of the Mounds Fen State Nature Preserve,” Sarah McKillip, president of the local society, said. “The board meets four times a year and voted unanimously to approve the opposition to the reservoir.”
McKillip said group members have attended several of the public forums on the reservoir, but this is the first time it has voiced opposition to the plan.
“We have reviewed the impact of the proposed change to the White River channel that would inundate the Mounds Fen Nature Preserve,” she said. “That’s our main concern right now.”
She said the proposed reservoir would destroy a unique biodiversity area of the Fen.
The Fen, designated in 1980, is remarkable not only for its “clean water” but the profusion of wild flowers, indicating a high-quality woods with minimal disturbance, McKillip said. She said the park also contains numerous critically important animal and plant species native to Indiana.
The local Audubon Society noted that 360,000 people visited Mounds State Park last year.
“We are going to look at the environmental impact of the proposed reservoir,” McKillip said, “and the potential impact of the reservoir along the entire White River watershed.”
Currently a Phase II study of the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir is being undertaken with a $600,000 grant from the state.
Community meetings on the results of the study are expected to begin in April or May. The study includes soil borings, soil type, looking for contaminates site and pre-existing land uses. It will include water quality along with a financial model and community impact.
Proponents of the reservoir project have conceded that parts of Mounds State Park would be affected by the heightened water levels in the area, but would not pose a threat to the famed mounds.
Mounds Lake Reservoir, which would cost an estimated $350 million to $450 million to create, would stretch approximately from East Lynn Street in Anderson east by northeast around Chesterfield and Daleville into Delaware County, ending just north of Delaware County Road 300 South.
The reservoir would flood an area around Anderson’s Scatterfield Road that includes the Mounds Mall property and other businesses.
The resulting pool of water would affect 1 million square feet of commercial property and an estimated 400 homes.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.