Lebanon Mayor Matthew Gentry said he’s frustrated by the regional opposition to a proposed pipeline that would take water from Tippecanoe County to a planned industrial district in his city.
Several communities, including Lafayette and West Lafayette, passed resolutions opposing the proposed pipeline. And on Monday, Tippecanoe County commissioners are expected to consider an ordinance to block water withdrawals of more than five million gallons, for a period of about nine months.
Gentry said local leaders should instead keep their eyes on the benefits of a large industrial district in Central Indiana.
“I’ve found that in my experience, dealing with the IEDC it’s much better to be at the table than throwing things at the people sitting at the table,” he said. “That’s some free advice I’d give to the leaders up in Tippecanoe County.”
Gentry urged Tippecanoe leaders to “take a breath” and wait until the state’s study into water resources can be completed. That study – to determine if Tippecanoe has enough water to support the industrial park – is expected to be completed in January of 2024.
“Let's wait on the data, let the scientists do their work,” he said. “And if there's going to be negative effects [in] Tippecanoe County, then it shouldn't happen, right? But if the data shows, as it's indicating already today, that there's a prolific amount of water there then let’s come up with a strategy that makes sense to benefit the whole region. Because Tippecanoe County will benefit from LEAP just as much as Lebanon.”
Gentry said he understands why people are concerned about resource management, and he has experience with this debate. When Lebanon annexed land in Boone County for the industrial district the city saw strong local opposition.
“Big ideas, big plans, obviously garner a lot of attention and initial gut opposition,” he said. “I think that's just where the IEDC and everyone has to do a good job of showing the information, sharing what they have, talking about it, and really explaining the bigger vision for this. So that's got to be the game plan going forward.”
Earlier this week, Gov. Eric Holcomb changed the oversight responsibility of that study to a new state agency. It was previously directed by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.