Construction of a reservoir on the White River in central Indiana could damage ecologically sensitive areas, environmentalists are warning.
The Hoosier Environmental Council worries the new reservoir would be too close to the prehistoric mounds built by early Native American societies that makes up Mounds State Park.
"And the worry is that among those who understand the engineering of these mounds, that's because of the proximity of the boundary of the potential Mounds Reservoir to these archeological sites, those archeological sites could be structurally vulnerable to wave action caused by that reservoir," said the council's executive director, Jesse Kharbanda.
"There are many other archaeological sites, both known and yet to be discovered within the lake footprint," the Indiana Archeology Council writes on their site. "Because of the loss of irreplaceable archaeological sites as a result of not only the impoundment caused by the Mounds Lake project but also future destruction by shoreline erosion, the members of the Indiana Archaeology Council are adamantly opposed to its development."
The proposed 2,100-acre Mounds Lake reservoir would stretch 7 miles between Anderson to Muncie and would flood an area that includes Anderson's Mounds Mall, adjacent business properties, about 400 homes and part of Mounds State Park. It is estimated to cost $450 million.
Proponents say it will help meet Indiana’s long-term water needs and draw economic development to the area.
"We believe that it's going to be a potential to kind of rebuild and start to move our economy toward a new direction by attracting new dollars and new investment in our community," project champion Rob Sparks told the Anderson city council in June.
But the Hoosier Environmental Council is encouraging the community to instead invest in recreation and greenspace along the river as a way to attract new residents.
"Our proposal proposal would be less than a tenth of the cost of the dam project and it would lead to, we think, creating a great magnant for young professionals," Kharbanda said.
Town and county councils near the project site who will determine the proposal’s future are split over their support. The proposal has gained support from several economic development agencies in the region and the initial backing of the Anderson City Council, but officials in neighboring Delaware County have voted against supporting it.
Several studies have said the reservoir isn't needed to meet metropolitan Indianapolis' water needs. Citizens Energy, the region's largest water utility, hasn't publicly endorsed the project.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.