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Leaders of Wabash River city question who owns Indiana’s water

I-Team 8: Leaders of Wabash River city question who owns Indiana’s water

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Wabash River is low, and the Indiana city of Attica and other communities along this river depend on its water.

The Attica City Council president told I-Team 8 that he is sponsoring a resolution to stop the Indiana government from taking millions of gallons water from the west central part of the state and piping it more than 40 miles to the southeast to the Indianapolis metropolitan area, specifically Boone County.

Larry Grant, the council leader, said, “My big concern is what if wells start going dry along the Wabash Valley because of this? What’s our recourse once it’s all done?”

All of Attica’s water comes from two pumps along the Wabash River. The city is building a new building around one of the pumps to protect it from the weather. But, the water faces another threat: The Indiana Economic Development Corp., a business development service for the state government, wants the same water for the LEAP industrial project anchored by Eli Lilly and Co. in Boone County.

Grant says his city is almost defenseless against the actions. “Our city attorneys are looking into right now, and I don’t know what our legal recourse would be. There maybe some recourse if your wells go dry, but, by then, it is too late. You can’t fight fires. You can’t run factories. You can’t run businesses. You can’t even flush your toilet.”

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. paid for a study that analyzed the amount of water available in the aquifer below the Wabash River. According to the preliminary results, the aquifer is deeper and wider than expected.

Matt Gentry, the mayor of the Boone County seat of Lebanon, served on the state’s water task force. He says Lebanon would benefit from the water taken from the Wabash River area. “Water is a state’s resource, and we have to make a determination as a state of how we use it appropriately, and every day water flows by Lafayette and West Lafayette that they are not using, and it goes to Illinois, so I would rather Indiana used it and not Illinois.”

Back in Attica, Grant says water rights are almost unregulated in Indiana. “I’m very nervous about it.”

Grant says he hopes Indiana lawmakers will step in and settle the issue. “I hope it is not too little, too late to make something happen here.”

Grant also told I-Team 8 that if the state of Illinois wanted to do the same thing and pump water to a project there, Indiana could do nothing to stop Illinois from doing so.