The Herald Bulletin

May 16, 2013

‘Protest Paddle’ will call attention to reservoir impact

Coalition will canoe 10 miles of White River

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

DALEVILLE, Ind. — Critics of the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir are planning a “protest paddle” Saturday on the White River.

Some the area that would be flooded by the proposed reservoir is one of the river’s most scenic stretches. The intent of Saturday’s trip is to “build public awareness and to demonstrate appreciation for the section of the river that would disappear if the planned dam goes forward,” said Clarke Kahlo, a leader of the newly formed Heart of the River Coalition, in a prepared statement.

The paddle trip, to begin at 10 a.m. at Canoe Country in Daleville, will involve kayakers and canoeists from throughout Indiana and will cover the 10-mile stretch of the West Fork of White River that would be lost, according to the statement.

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.

Kahlo and other river advocates are concerned about the thousands of acres of private and public land that would be flooded, including a significant portion of Mounds State Park.

“Not only will it heavily impact the significant historical and cultural resources in the area, but the high financial burden to massively reconfigure existing infrastructure, utilities, roads, and bridges has not been thoroughly examined or publicly vetted,” Kahlo said.

Rob Sparks, executive director of the Anderson-Madison County Corporation for Economic Development, concedes supporters don’t have all the answers.

All that exists so far is a preliminary feasibility study. He and other supporters are busy seeking non-binding resolutions of support for a second phase study from the five affected local government units. Resolutions have already been passed by the Chesterfield and Daleville town councils; early next week, the Madison County council and boards of county commissioners in Madison and Delaware counties are expected to debate the resolutions.

The next study, which would cost an estimated $300,000, would involve a more detailed look at costs, engineering and environmental issues, and begin community planning meetings.

Sparks’ reaction to Saturday’s canoe expedition was measured.

He said he’s attempted to reach out to Kahlo and his group, but they have not yet been able to set a meeting.

Sparks said Kahlo’s group has raised some valid points about the impact a reservoir would have on the flowing river, its environment and ecosystem.

But he noted that the lake would create an entirely new environment, ecosystem and habitat for wildlife, while at the same time providing flood control downstream from Anderson, stabilizing river flow during times of drought and, most importantly, supplying additional water for the Indianapolis metropolitan area.

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