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Holcomb takes big steps amid concerns about moving water for Boone County development

Holcomb takes major steps amid concerns about moving water for economic development

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In the midst of a controversial plan to move water from northwest central Indiana to Boone County for an economic development, Gov. Eric Holcomb late Monday afternoon announced major actions to address the state’s water monitoring.

The goal, the Republican governor says in a news release, is to collect data “to gain a greater understanding of the amount of excess water that is truly available to support all the surrounding region’s growth prior to any action being taken that could inadvertently jeopardize this needed resource.”

The Boone County city of Lebanon in October annexed 642 acres for the LEAP Lebanon Innovation District, which is described on the Indiana Department of Economic Development’s website as “the next location of global innovation” with “9,000+ available acres strategically situated on Indiana’s I-65 Hard Tech Corridor.”

In April, Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Lilly announced a $3.7 billion project for the Boone County site. State officials called it the largest deal in the history of the Department of Economic Development.

City councils in Lafayette, West Lafayette and Attica have formally opposed plans to move water from northwest central Indiana to the Boone County project.

The governor’s actions, according to the news release issued Monday, include:

  • Directing the Indiana Finance Authority to begin oversight of a study by Texas-based Intera “to evaluate the importance of water resources in sustaining economic growth throughout the state and raise awareness for establishing a formal statewide water planning process.”
  • Directing the Indiana Finance Authority to move up the start of a planned northwest central Indiana water study for at least 12 counites: Benton, Cass, Carroll, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Montgomery, Parke, Tipton, Vermillion, Warren and White. The study, which will take into account future population and economic growth for the region as well as incorporating the Intera study, will be completed by autumn 2024.
  • Directing the Indiana Finance Authority to add water monitoring devices as part of the regional study to provide “the public assurance that water use and availability will continue to be tracked accurately and in real-time.”

Holcomb also said in the release, “This is the natural next step to the data collection and will allow us the time to fully understand the region’s resource in order to continue our state’s unprecedented momentum in attracting employers that create high-wage careers.”

I-Team 8 has covered the story extensively, even addressing the question of who owns Indiana’s water.