County adopts resolution on state water projects


Montgomery County Commissioners believe the state should keep local government officials informed when planning large development projects like the LEAP Lebanon Innovative District.

Recently the economic development project backed by the Indiana Economic Development Commission and a proposed pipeline that could divert billions of gallons of water from the Wabash River Aquifer near Lafayette to Lebanon has come under fire.

Residents and elected officials in several affected counties and communities have voiced opposition to the plan to use the river as a water resource. Opponents say a definitive study has yet to be conducted that shows the economic impact in Tippecanoe and Boone counties, nor has the effect of taking water out of the aquifer and discharging it been adequately studied.

Montgomery County officials fear the amount of water projected to be used by the LEAP Project could be dumped into Sugar Creek which would affect the county.

On Monday, county commissioners approved a resolution that encourages the state to involve local governments when formulating large development projects.

The measure comes after Boone County Commissioners reported they learned about the project on the news just as residents did. Furthermore, Boone County Commissioners were upset after they learned Lebanon city officials knew about the water plan but failed to share the information with county officials.

The Montgomery County resolution states, “We encourage the state to seek local input and collaborate with local government regarding water use issues such as the LEAP Project as well as other projects. We believe that projects with a large impact of water resources ought to be studied to ensure that there is minimal impact on existing businesses and residents.”

The resolution further calls for transparency to provide residents and businesses with confidence in the project.

“I am disappointed in the way the state approached the LEAP Project,” Montgomery County Commissioner John Frey said. “The state’s actions with this project are shameful in the way it was handled.”

Montgomery County Soil and Water board member Kenny Cain spoke to commissioners thanking them for the resolution, although he had hoped the language would be stronger.

Boone County Farm Bureau President Brian Daggy echoed Cain’s comments.

“I hoped the commissioners would amend their resolution, but we are grateful for the position they approved,” Daggy said. “We realize there is a balancing act between economic development and natural resources, but the LEAP Project has caused many concerns the state needs to address.”

The pipeline project has been paused. The Indiana Finance Authority is funding a study that should go into more detail. However, Daggy is unsure if it will go far enough to include the economic and environmental impact in nearby counties, such as Montgomery.

Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Guard said his concern with any water project as large as LEAP is that the state is taking authority away from local government.

“I have spoken with state legislators concerning how the IEDC proceeded with LEAP,” Guard said. “In my opinion the state’s actions take away local control and home rule. We want to control what goes on locally and not have state legislators making decisions locally.”