Alternate plan for the White River in Anderson

Environmental groups are proposing a ready-to-implement plan called The Mounds Greenway to protect the West Fork of the White River, and leave it as a free-flowing river.

By Mary Kuhlman

Opponents of the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir in central Indiana say they have an alternative plan that would save the free-flowing White River and protect surrounding forests and wetlands.

The reservoir project would dam the West Fork White River and create a 2,000-acre lake, which Sheryl Myers of the Heart of the River Coalition says threatens water and other natural resources in the area. Her organization is putting forward a proposal called The Mounds Greenway, which would preserve the White River between Anderson and Muncie and feature a hiking and biking trail that runs the length of the corridor.

"We'd like to go for the recreation angle that keeps the river wild and free," says Myers. "Our proposal opens up public trails for everyone, not just people that might be wealthy enough to have a property on the reservoir."

Myers points out the Mounds Lake Reservoir is a lengthy project with a price tag of nearly $400 million. She argues the Mounds Greenway project is ready to implement, and a cost of only $40 million.

Those supporting the reservoir say it will spur economic development, boost property values, and improve flood control. Myers, on the other hand, says the greenway would increase prosperity without having to use eminent domain. She says construction of the dam will have to employ eminent domain in order for it to be built.

"Ours is completely voluntary," says Myers. "People who would sell or put their land in an easement would do so voluntarily."

Myers notes Indiana is one of 16 states that has no long-range water use plan, and argues the time to begin developing a sustainable, reasonable strategy for the future is now.

"Years down the line the rare thing will be a free-flowing river, not another reservoir that has to be maintained at great expense and will become a repository of invasive species," she says. "A free-flowing river has virtually no maintenance."

The Mounds Greenway proposal is also supported by the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Robert Cooper Audubon Society.