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Holcomb defends water studies for Boone County innovation district

Holcomb defends water studies

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday said he’s confident Indiana has more than enough water to meet the needs of the proposed LEAP Lebanon Innovation District.

Speaking to News 8 from Africa, where he’s visiting Indiana National Guard soldiers deployed to the Horn of Africa region, Holcomb said the state needs to produce its own data on how much water is available for the project, rather than rely on previous studies. He said the LEAP district northwest of Indianapolis in Boone County is crucial to sustaining the state’s economic growth.

“We have a lot of not just attention, but investment, coming to Indiana. A lot of high-wage, high-demand jobs of the future, and we want to continue to grow at the scale and pace that we strategically set out,” the Republican governor said. “When I’m with the governor of Ohio and the governor of Michigan, and they say they have an overabundance of water, we have water, we just have to prove it.”

Holcomb on Monday directed the Indiana Finance Authority to oversee the ongoing Intera water study in Tippecanoe County, removing it from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s control, and ordered the Indiana Finance Authority to move up the start date for a larger study reviewing Wabash River watersheds in at least 12 north central Indiana counties. The order followed months of protests from landowners and city officials along the I-65 corridor who said they were never properly consulted about the project.

A preliminary Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) study found the Wabash River basin has more than enough water to support the LEAP district, a research and industrial park planned for the Lebanon area which would be anchored by a $3.7 billion research facility of Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Lilly. Area stakeholders have told News 8 that they don’t trust the IEDC’s study, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Doden, himself a former president of the IEDC, has called for an independent water study. Meanwhile, landowners in the area told I Team 8 their well water became sandy, smelly and laden with iron after test wells were dug nearby.

On Wednesday, West Lafayette city council member David Sanders told I-Team 8 that he wondered whether the goal of the newly announced study is to understand the problem or to find water that can be transported to the project. When News 8 put that question to Holcomb on Thursday morning, the governor replied the state needs further investments and those investments will require water.

“We’ve got so much momentum and so much, not just attention, but desire to come to a state like Indiana,” Holcomb said.

The Wabash River basin study is now scheduled for completion in the fall of 2024.

“All INdiana Politics” airs at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on WISH-TV.