Opponents of a proposed reservoir in central Indiana hope to use this weekend's Earth Day festivals to spread the word about their concerns about the $350 million dam project, which would inundate part of a state park known for its ancient earthworks.
Members of the Heart of the River Coalition and the Indiana Forest Alliance plan to hand out pamphlets Saturday about the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir during Indianapolis' Earth Day Indiana Festival and at Anderson's Earth Day Arbor Fest.
Heart of the River Coalition spokesman Sheryl Myers said the groups want Indiana residents to urge Gov. Mike Pence to halt state support of the proposal to dam the White River in Anderson to create a 2,000-acre lake. That reservoir would replace what's now seven miles of free-flowing river.
The project would flood a nature preserve in Mounds State Park near Anderson that's home to rare species and also inundate at least one third of the park, which is known for circular earthworks built more than 2,000 years ago by the Adena-Hopewell people, she said.
Supporters of the reservoir say the proposed man-made lake would create prime real estate for waterfront housing, boost property values and spur economic development in the Anderson area. They also say it would improve flood control and could help supplement the Indianapolis area's water needs.
Myers said the project, which also would flood forests along the river, isn't the correct approach to helping the Anderson area recover from the loss of thousands of automotive jobs in recent decades.
"We understand that we're living in a community that's going to have to reinvent itself economically, but we don't feel that building a reservoir is the way to do it," she said Wednesday.
An initial feasibility study of the reservoir proposal was released in December 2011. The second, more-detailed phase of that analysis, funded with $600,000 provided by the Indiana Revolving Loan Fund, is expected to be released within the next two months, said Rob Sparks, executive director of the Anderson-Madison County Corporation for Economic Development.
He said that report will shed light on the project's engineering feasibility, financial impact and environmental impacts, and how those can be mitigated.
"We think it's a great project for the state of Indiana and the central region, particularly," Sparks said.
The proposed reservoir's waters would flood the Mounds Fen State Nature Preserve that's within Mounds State Park as well as the park's riverside trail system, he said. But Sparks said the park's ancient earthworks would be spared from the proposed reservoir's waters.
Marty Benson, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said the state agency won't become involved in discussions about the reservoir until it receives applications for a project permit, such as a permit to build in a floodway.
"Until then, we really don't have a role," he said.