Top 10 Questions from the Heart of the River : Answered
1) THE CLAIM THAT WE NEED AN ADDITIONAL SOURCE OF WATER IN CENTRAL INDIANA AT THIS TIME IS UNSUBSTANTIATED.
First and foremost, the Phase II report states, “several studies have been done to demonstrate a water need”. The studies, done by Citizen’s Water and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, in fact do NOT conclude that an additional source of water is needed in the foreseeable future. Citizen’s Water repeatedly denies that another reservoir is part of their 35-year plan, and the Chamber study cites the need for a comprehensive statewide water resource inventory. If we enter an extended drought, there are many other measures that would be more cost effective than building a $440 million dollar dam and reservoir. So – if Citizen’s Water is not the customer, who is?
There have been multiple water resource studies completed over the last 10 years by various stakeholder organizations. Three of the more recent reports are hosted at MoundsLake.com for review. These reports illustrate a need for additional water resources for central Indiana. Furthermore, the Mounds Lake project will be required to demonstrate a clear water need in order to secure the necessary permits from state and federal agencies. We look at this as a regional project and do not speak for any utility.
Here are a few excerpts from the water reports available for review at moundslake.com:
“Central Indiana has Marginal Supplies
The water supply in Central Indiana is diverse. It includes diversions from the West Fork of the White River, storage in water supply reservoirs in tributary streams, and groundwater from shallow and deep aquifers. The diversification of the water portfolio reflects the fact that there is no single solution to water supply and growth in this portion of the state. Supplies are limited and, without new sources, economic growth may falter.”
(WATER AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN INDIANA: MODERNIZING THE STATE’S APPROACH TO A CRITICAL RESOURCE, Indiana Chamber, 2014, Executive Summary, pg. 2)
“As the water utilities in the middle of the state consider new well fields to satisfy growth, conservation and demand management will become standard policy in meeting seasonal peak demand for water. Limited groundwater and relatively low flows in streams limit available options. This part of the state will need to build new surface water storage capable of satisfying future demands or develop well fields in other watersheds. The latter alternative will require that water from distant well fields be piped in to meet the demands of population growth.”
(WATER AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN INDIANA: MODERNIZING THE STATE’S APPROACH TO A CRITICAL RESOURCE, Indiana Chamber, 2014, Conclusions, pg. 71)
“Compounding strain on central Indiana’s water resources is the region’s growing population. Hamilton and Hendricks counties are two of the fastest growing counties in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). The population in these two counties and in Boone, Hancock, and Johnson counties is expected to increase more than 20 percent between 2005 and 2025 (Indiana Business Research Center, 2008). A 2004 central Indiana water report states that the region’s surface water supplies are nearly fully developed and that net surface water use will likely exceed minimum stream flow requirements (7Q10) before 2020 (Malcolm Pirnie, 2004). As a result, central Indiana’s surface water supplies will no longer be available to meet future water demand. Public water suppliers, industrial users, and energy producers (the three largest withdrawers of surface water) will have to use groundwater when new sources are needed. Currently, groundwater is central Indiana’s buffer against drought. However, if groundwater withdrawals increase, less will be available during water shortages. Consequently, managing central Indiana’s surface water and groundwater supplies now is imperative for the region’s continued economic vitality.”
(Central Indiana’s Regional Water Supply, Indy Chamber, Spring 2010, Executive Summary, pg. vi)
“With the constraints and assumptions used in this evaluation, it is concluded that the existing water system in Indianapolis will not be able to yield enough water to meet demands during climate conditions similar to the 1940-1941 drought-of-record. This assumes the addition of several wells added to the existing wellfields, and the proposed Waverly wellfield and existing treatment plant upgrades… If the 1988 drought conditions recur and the existing reservoirs and wellfields are operated efficiently, the system may produce enough water to meet average day demands. Additionally, the system may not be able to meet the summertime peak demands without significant reductions in future consumption through water use restrictions or conservation.”
(Black & Veatch Phase II Yield and Demand Study, Veolia Water, October 2008, pg. 206)
“As shown in Figure 10-20 in Section 10.4.3, even if consumption is significantly reduced through water restrictions, the magnitude of the maximum day yield deficit could be on the order of approximately 100 mgd or more by 2020, if the drought-of-record were to occur again.”
(Black & Veatch Phase II Yield and Demand Study, Veolia Water, October 2008, pg. 214)
2) LOCAL RESIDENTS WILL HAVE DIMINISHED QUALITY OF LIFE DURING CONSTRUCTION AND BEYOND.
Construction noise, loss of recreational opportunities, motorized vehicles on the reservoir, traffic detours, permanent road closures, use of eminent domain, loss of tax revenue during construction, destruction of wildlife habitat and wildlife viewing areas, and delays are all expected to cause diminished quality of life for many Madison and Delaware County residents. Those who have the most to lose also have the least to gain. And what if the customer base or funding sources fall through after construction has begun
Any project of this size will have impacts (both positive and negative), and all efforts will be made to minimize negative impacts to the extent possible. Many of these items will be studied in more detail in the next phase of the project. The Commission will need to coordinate many things in order to move this project forward as smoothly as possible. Taxes lost during construction will be a cost to the project and paid to the units until the AV is replaced. Contracts would need to be in place to support the bonding for construction. In any case the local taxing units will not have any responsibility in the debt.
It is not possible to quantitatively measure “quality of life”, but with the increased natural recreation opportunities, miles of trails and positive impact to the local economy that this project will bring, the Mounds Lake team believes the quality of life for area citizens will be enhanced if the project is completed.
3) THE PROJECTED CONSTRUCTION COST OF THE PROJECT IS BEING GROSSLY UNDERSTATED.
Only broad cost estimates are included in the Phase II study and they don’t include all the bridge and infrastructure relocation, remediation, OR the interest on servicing the bond debt. A Ball State Natural Resource class is conducting their own cost estimates this semester with far greater precision than was undertaken in the Phase II study. And do the residents of Madison and Delaware Counties need this water, or is it intended to make life more comfortable for our more affluent neighbors downstream?
The project team is confident in the $440 million dollar cost estimate. This estimate will be defined as new information becomes available in the next phase of work. The project team estimated on the conservatively high side for all budget line items. There may actually be opportunities for cost savings as the project moves forward. All the budget items inquired about, have been considered within the project cost estimates. As far as where the water would be used, we would expect the resource to be used for the benefit of central Indiana residents regardless of their economic status. The importance of this project extends well beyond county boundaries. Mounds Lake will play a vital role in supporting the entire central Indiana water infrastructure for the next 100 years, if the project comes to fruition.
4) OUR ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL TREASURES ARE THREATENED.
It is unrealistic to try to mitigate the 80+ recognized unique archaeological sites that would be inundated; sites that are so sensitive that they couldn’t be described in this study. A massively engineered “seawall” would destroy the interpretive value of the Mounds earthworks and would eventually crack and crumble, just like all seawalls, allowing a 2000-year old treasure to be undermined. Extensive ravines near the earthworks present a drainage challenge that the report doesn’t acknowledge.
As noted in the DLZ report additional analysis regarding archaeological and cultural assets, within and outside the current river floodway, will be required as part of Mounds Lake Phase III. Once the cultural assets are properly identified and inventoried the Mounds Lake project team will work through the established rules to relocate and/or mitigate impacts to these important resources. This process is well established under federal guidelines.
As noted in the DLZ report necessary steps will be taken to properly protect all identified earthworks within Mounds State Park. However, it should be noted that flood events that occur on average 2 to 3 times per year cause significant erosion of river banks. The erosive forces of Mounds Lake is likely to be far less than the current flows of the White River. Since its earliest days, the Mounds Lake project team has recognized the irreplaceable cultural significance of the Mounds State Park earth works and has been committed to do what must be done to project these assets. This will also be an important consideration to permitting agencies as we move into phase III.
5) TOO MANY QUESTIONS REMAIN UNANSWERED (AND UNASKED) BY PHASE II.
Too many issues received superficial examination in the Phase II study. For example, no new borings were done beneath Mounds Mall where a large industrial-era dump is located. Neither a single wildlife survey nor a county drain assessment was done. Decision makers need more information. How can we commit to building a reservoir without knowing what we are actually undertaking?
Formation of the Mounds Lake Commission does not commit any government entity to building a reservoir. Forming the commission is the next step in a long process. Under the terms of the proposed ordinance government entities actually have the ability to withdraw, if they believe the interest of their community is no longer being served by the commission.
Mounds Lake is still early in its development process. The work that’s been completed is a feasibility level analysis. Undoubtedly, rigorous subsurface investigations, wildlife studies and a myriad of other evaluations will need to be completed to meet state and federal permitting requirements. These detailed studies have not been completed at this time because we’re are just now entering the permitting phase of the project. Furthermore, a relatively small amount of money has been spent up to this point. The level of study referred to in this question will require a significant amount of additional funds to complete.
6) THE RESERVOIR PLAN IS SOCIALLY INEQUITABLE.
Sparks is asking local government to do all the legwork. The developer/end user should be paying some of these costs, hiring these professional teams, dedicating the hours of slogging through procedures and paperwork, fighting law suits, meeting with regulators, and the list goes on. Why are local taxpayers being asked to shoulder this cost by paying the salaries of our elected officials while they work on a reservoir? This is a fairness issue. THE PEOPLE BEING ASKED TO SACRIFICE THE MOST WOULD BENEFIT THE LEAST if the dam is constructed.
The public elected officials that will serve as commissioners on the Mounds Lake Commission are not paid, by state code. The commission has no taxing authority, can’t commit taxing units to bonding and will need to find funding from outside grants, partnerships or revenue from sales of water to operate. In addition, many stakeholders have expressed interest in maintaining local control of Mounds Lake. This will allow local communities to control important operational issues and direct water utility revenues.
7) TRANSPORTATION CONNECTIVITY WOULD BE LOST.
Area residents are being asked to make a decision about this dam without knowing which bridges will be rebuilt and which will be closed. North-south connectivity in our county would be severely compromised, and Madison Avenue (100 W) certainly isn’t able to carry more traffic. It can barely carry what it has now!
Traffic studies will be a part of Phase III. The estimated project cost allows for the replacement of every bridge, if the community wants them. Planning, community involvement and traffic studies will determined the long range planning of Mounds Lake. We believe this is the role of government. If bridges are not replaced, roads will need to be enlarged to carry the traffic. The cost will be about the same, so the budgeted amount should cover either option.
8) THE PHASE II REPORT CONTAINS DISCREPANCIES.
The DLZ engineering report claims that 405 acres of hardwood forest will be affected. According to the Indiana Forest Alliance, the figure is over 960 acres. There are also inaccuracies on the GIS maps (mislabeled state roads for example), lack of onsite verification for old gravel pits, failure to state the presence of migratory birds throughout the river corridor, and lack of reference to an already-completed extensive floral inventory of the nature preserve at Mounds State Park.
The appendix map labeled land cover in the Phase II report has the deciduous forest area shown from gis. The 405 acres was measured directly from here. Not knowing what was used as the edge of the reservoir leaves variables open for a large difference in this number. The only issue regarding old gravel pits would be whether they are considered wetlands at this time which would be no different than other wetlands we have to mitigate. If they have not morphed into wetlands, then they are just open water that will be covered by the reservoir. Flora and fauna (particularly endangered items) were listed in the Phase I report.
9) THE MOUNDS LAKE COMMISSION WOULD LACK ACCOUNTABILITY.
If the Mounds Lake Commission is created, it will have virtually no oversight or accountability. No protocol has been set for appointments to the commission, no funding has been designated for its operation, and no transparency is mandated during its decision-making process.
The Mounds Lake Commission, as proposed, will be a multi governmental unit with a mission to build a public owned utility. Appointments will be elected officials from each of the government entities representing them impacted area. Because it is a governmental entity, it will operate just as the councils does with public notice and public meetings. It has no taxing ability but can utilize funds from the water utility for various purposes including operations. A resolution and proposed ordinance are contained in the CED Community report and are available for public review.
10) ALTERNATIVES ARE NOT CONSIDERED AS REQUIRED BY FEDERAL LAW.
The Phase II study doesn’t examine any alternatives to building a dam to meet water needs, as required by federal regulatory agencies.
It’s accurate that a study of alternatives will be required to demonstrate Mounds Lake is the best solution for the water needs of the central region of Indiana. It will be part of the Phase III scope prior to the permitting of the project. Evaluating available water supply options has not been a focus as part of the feasibility studies, because this was not the appropriate stage of the project for these tasks. That said, the 2008 Black & Veatch report hosted at MoundsLake.com, did provide budget estimates for alternatives to deliver the volume of water predicted to be needed. Mounds Lake is estimated to cost less than the options noted in this report and have less impact on the environment than the noted options.
(Black & Veatch Phase II Yield and Demand Study, Veolia Water, October 2008, pg. 215)