An Indiana-based environmental group is stepping out in opposition of a proposal to flood part of Anderson to create a reservoir. The Hoosier Environmental Council says damming the West Fork White River would lead to long-lasting consequences for the environment and economy. July 8, 2014
Anderson, Ind. — The Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana’s largest statewide environmental organization, is calling for an alternative to a plan to dam the West Fork White River in Anderson, which would create a reservoir that would result in long-lasting and harmful consequences for Indiana’s environment and Indiana’s recreational and tourist sectors.
Today the Anderson region, 45 minutes northeast of Indianapolis, attracts visitors and draws revenue from a host of recreational activities along the river, including fishing for smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill, canoeing and kayaking, mountain biking and hiking. Over 360,000 people visit Mounds State Park every year. But if this seven mile stretch of the river is dammed, it will seriously alter the mix of native aquatic species in the environs of this project, which would compromise a burgeoning river-based recreational opportunity, particularly because the West Fork White River is designated an Outstanding River of Indiana for its ecological importance and canoeing and kayaking opportunities. There are extensive stretches of hardwood forest along the river– nearly 1,000 acres in total — that would be destroyed by the proposed reservoir. These riverside forests provide high quality habitat for shorebirds, songbirds, waterfowl, bats and other mammals, and protect the river from siltation and other polluted runoff.
In addition to risks to recreation and water quality, this controversial project — which has already drawn opposition from thirteen other organizations — has the potential to cause irreplaceable damage to one of the best preserved prehistoric Native American earthwork sites in Indiana, which is the basis for its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. History enthusiasts visit the area to see some of the rare preserved prehistoric Adena and Hopewell cultural mounds and earthwork structures, all within Mounds State Park. Several of these 2,000 year old archaeological sites would likely be damaged or destroyed due to the proposed Mounds Reservoir — a fact that has caused the Indiana Archaeology Council to “adamantly oppose” its development. Furthermore, a very rare and irreplaceable natural area, the Mounds Fen, would be destroyed by the proposed lake. Local parks which would be inundated by the proposed reservoir include Walbridge Acres Park in Chesterfield and Rangeline Preserve, a popular mountain biking area in Anderson.
“The damming of the West Fork White River would cause major environmental damage, replacing a high-quality, free-flowing river ecosystem with an artificial reservoir, in the process drowning unique natural areas in Mounds State Park, destroying healthy bottomland hardwood forest along the river, as well as working class neighborhoods in the city of Anderson. Man-made reservoirs are also vulnerable to siltation and blue-green algae contamination which seriously reduce their prospective benefits to anglers, boaters, lakefront property owners, and tourists,” said Tim Maloney, senior policy director for HEC.
Maloney says it is because of these problems that HEC is calling for an alternative to the Mounds Reservoir project that does not include damming the river. He says a free flowing river and adjoining natural lands can, with careful planning, provide a novel approach to sustainable economic development for a region that is rightly seeking new economic opportunity.
More information about the Council’s position on the proposed Mounds Lake reservoir is available at www.hecweb.org.
About Hoosier Environmental Council:
Founded thirty years ago, the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) is the largest statewide environmental policy organization in Indiana. HEC aims to set a new path for Indiana, embracing practices and policies that dramatically reduce the footprint of transportation, industry, commerce, and agriculture on the environment. Visit hecweb.org for more information. You can follow HEC’s activities on Twitter: @hec_ed, and on Facebook at facebook.com/hecweb.
Source: Hoosier Environmental Council