- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) - Supporters of a proposal to build Indiana’s first new reservoir in more than four decades by damming the White River in Anderson are awaiting the release of a feasibility study that could either boost or set back the project.

The state-funded study expected to be released in early 2105 will include “a collective decision to pursue the project or not move forward,” said Rob Sparks, executive director of Corporation for Economic Development of Madison County.

Sparks’ group is spearheading the proposed 2,100-acre Mounds Lake reservoir between Anderson and Muncie that would be created by damming the river in Anderson.

He said that if the report supports the estimated $450 million project, elected officials would then have to take the next steps toward creating the reservoir, which would flood an area that includes Anderson’s Mounds Mall, adjacent business properties, about 400 homes and part of Mounds State Park.

“Elected officials have to step up. Our group can’t take it to the next level,” Sparks told The Herald Bulletin.

The feasibility report will focus on the creation of a regional water supply and how selling drinking water from the proposed reservoir could help finance the project’s cost.

If the study favors the reservoir, the next step would be forming a 12-member commission that would plan for the development, financing and construction of the project.

The Mounds Lake Commission would have the authority to fund environmental-impact studies and seek a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

But in the past 20 years the Louisville Army Corps district that covers Indiana has authorized only one large lake, spokeswoman Carol Labashosky told the Indianapolis Business Journal. That came in 1996 when Kentucky officials received approval to build Cedar Creek Lake in that state’s Lincoln County.

Central Indiana’s reservoirs were built before 1970, with Geist dating to 1943, Morse Reservoir built in 1957 and Eagle Creek Reservoir constructed in 1969.

Mounds Lake’s proponents would have to convince federal officials that the project is needed for water supply, which is increasingly a topic of discussion among central Indiana suburbs.

But the Hoosier Environmental Council is promoting an alternative to the reservoir called the Mounds Greenway that would create conservation areas and a bike path connecting Anderson and Muncie at a cost of between $15 million to $40 million.

“We certainly know from all these case studies around the country, these greenways and waterways have positive economic benefit, and they do that by protecting” natural resources, said Tim Maloney, the Hoosier Environmental Council’s senior policy director.

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