Mounds Lake Reservoir

Bonnie Cox of Chesterfield studies the large map of the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir last year at Mounds Mall at the first of several public sessions being held in Anderson, Chesterfield, Daleville, and Yorktown. The proposed lake would run from Anderson to Yorktown along White River.

Reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

The Mounds Lake proposal might not be alive and well, but it is still alive. As reported Sunday on the front page of The Herald Bulletin, Rob Sparks, head of the Corporation for Economic Development of Madison County, and other proponents of the reservoir project are gathering data and seeking from $20 million to $30 million in funding for the next phase of studies.

In 2015, attempts to establish a commission to move the project forward failed after town councils in Yorktown and Daleville declined to join. Prior to that, Anderson and Chesterfield councils had voted to participate in the commission. But with Yorktown and Daleville out, the Mounds Lake proposal seemed dead — or at least dormant.

Not so, according to Sparks.

He calls the project "viable" and the "best solution" to address future water needs in central Indiana. Sparks said there are no plans to scale back the project; some had suggested the 2,100-acre area for the reservoir could be reduced so that it did not reach Daleville and Yorktown.

As proposed, a dam on the White River in Anderson would create a reservoir stretching seven miles to Yorktown. Sparks estimates the cost at $440 million. Planners have said that the project would be funded by private investors and government grants, and that no local tax money would be used. According to the reservoir plan, about 400 businesses and homes, including the Irondale neighborhood in Anderson, would be submerged. Where necessary, property would be acquired through eminent domain.

Proponents say it would not only provide a needed water source for the region but that it would draw water-sports enthusiasts and tourists and boost economic development and real estate values in Anderson and across the reservoir area.

Opponents, including the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Heart of the River group, say the reservoir would destroy the natural beauty of the river, compromise flora and fauna dependent on the river, threaten historical sites and be a colossal waste of money.

In lieu of the reservoir, they've proposed the Mounds Greenway, a paved hiking/biking trail along the White River that would cost from $15 million to $40 million and link Anderson to the Cardinal Greenway, which runs from Richmond through Muncie to Marion. The HEC recently conducted public input sessions on the Mounds Greenway in Muncie and Anderson. Results of a preliminary study on the viability of the Mounds Greenway proposal are due in March.

Sparks notes that the Mounds Lake plan would include hiking and biking trails and that the lake proposal has the potential to bring "billions of dollars to the region," far more than the greenway project could generate.

Sparks is right about that. But this is all about local choice.

What do the people of the affected communities want? To this point, they haven't spoken as a clear majority in favor of either project.

Proponents — and opponents — should continue to provide information and answer questions about both projects. Whether either becomes a reality will depend on the ability of supporters to show that the benefits outweigh the costs.

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