The Washington Times-Herald

State News

January 29, 2013

Legislation calls for new state water management agency

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s polluted streams, chronically flooded areas, and rising demand for water in fast-growing parts of the state are among the reasons cited for the need for a state “water czar.”

Legislation that has support from both conservationists and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce calls for the first-ever statewide water management plan and a gubernatorial-appointed administrator to execute it.  

The bill is authored by state Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, whose legislation reflects concerns of a task force that spent 18 months studying the threats to Indiana’s natural resources.

The task force found that Indiana has “extraordinary” water resources that give the state an economic advantage. But it also found the resources are vulnerable, in part because of the lack of a coordinated effort to protect and manage the state’s water supplies.

“Water is abundant here,” said Karickhoff. “But just because a resource is abundant doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of it.”

Last year’s intense drought, which triggered water-usage bans around the state, highlighted how critical water is as a resource.

But concerns about how to manage both water quality and water quantity pre-date the drought.

In its report to the Legislature, the Sustainable Natural Resources Task Force noted that Indiana’s waters are “overwhelmingly classified as impaired” — meaning they don’t meet federal water quality standards.

The report also noted that the demand for water in fast-growing communities in central Indiana may soon outpace the supply.

And some parts of southwest Indiana are chronically flooded. Or, as state Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, told his colleagues earlier this week: “We’ve been up to our eyeballs in water every spring for years.”

Karickhoff’s legislation mirrors a bill in the state Senate, carried by Sen. Richard Young Jr., D-Milltown. The companion bills borrow from similar legislation adopted by other states that faced expensive lawsuits for failing to manage their water resources.

Karickhoff’s bill calls for the creation of a new state agency, the Water Management Authority, which would have broad powers to develop and implement a statewide water management plan. It would address issues like flood control, water storage and water pollution.

Some decisions now made at the local level or by other state agencies — ranging from ditch construction standards to flood control plans — would be assumed by the state Water Management Authority.

It creates regional water management councils that would identify the water needs of their region and work to better coordinate the management of water resources.

And it creates a kind “water czar” whose job it would be to protect and manage the state’s water resources.

Bill Weeks, head of the Indiana Land Protection Alliance, chaired the task force that called for the state to elevate its role in water management.

At a joint hearing of the House and Senate natural resources committees Monday, Weeks said water had the greatest impact on the state’s other natural resources, including its 4 million acres of forestland.

“If I could make a plea,” Weeks said, “it would be to say that it’s time for us to look at water governance in this state.”  

The legislation hasn’t gotten a hearing yet, but the idea of elevating the state’s role in water management was part of the “Roadmap for Indiana” proposal that Gov. Mike Pence laid out in his campaign last fall. It called for directing state agencies to establish a plan for managing the state’s water resources and for accelerating the effort to clean the state’s waterways.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only
State News
  • nws-gb011714 Land Zeppelin 2 (front page pic) Inventor hopes Bike Zeppelin takes off GREENSBURG - A local civil engineer has created a Zeppelin-shaped apparatus that allows bicyclists to ride in the rain without getting wet. Greensburg resident Jim Gorman remembers the day that inspiration struck: Nov. 22, 2011. It rained all day, an

    January 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • Legislator pushes for public disclosure of former meth homes INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Wendy McNamara knew methamphetamine was a scourge on her district in southwestern Indiana, but the damaging effects of the drug really hit her when she met a real estate appraiser who’d suffered lung damage after visiting a

    December 14, 2013

  • Bird statue to be unveiled in Terre Haute Serving double duty as a baseball infielder for the American League's Toronto Blue Jays and basketball guard for Brigham Young University, 20-year-old Danny Ainge found time in March 1979 to drive from Provo, Utah, to Salt Lake City to catch an in-pe

    November 5, 2013

  • news school bill.jpg Pence announces school safety grants

    Flanked by fourth-grade members of the Ambassadors Club and student council at Cedar Elementary School here, Gov. Mike Pence announced more than $9 million in grants for schools statewide to enhance their security.

    November 1, 2013 1 Photo

  • Coats returns home to listen to Hoosiers INDIANAPOLIS -- Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Coats returned home to Indiana this week, hoping to turn the political conversation away from a failed GOP strategy that partially shut down the federal government and toward what he sees as more critical issu

    October 24, 2013

  • Congressman standing firm on government shutdown

    Todd Rokita of Indiana’s Fourth Congressional District has been an outspoken opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — a k a Obamacare — since it was signed into law in 2010.

    On Tuesday, the first day the federal government partially shut down in 17 years, the Republican congressman wasn’t backing down.

    October 1, 2013

  • Laws that carry automatic loss of driver's license under review INDIANAPOLIS -- The legislative study committee that proposed the massive rewrite of Indiana's felony code will soon take on another tough issue: The automatic penalty that causes thousands of Hoosiers to lose their driving privileges for committing

    September 19, 2013

  • Gingerich_AP PHOTO.jpg Prison sentence of 12-year-old prompts new juvenile sentencing law

    Three years ago, when 12-year-old Paul Henry Gingerich became the youngest person in Indiana ever sent to prison as an adult, his story gained international attention and sparked questions about whether children belong behind bars with grown-up offenders.

    June 14, 2013 2 Photos

  • Supt_Ritz 1 .jpg Ritz orders independent analysis of ISTEP results

    Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has hired an outside expert to determine the validity of ISTEP+ test scores of nearly 80,000 students who were kicked offline while taking the high-stakes standardized test.

    June 10, 2013 1 Photo

  • State won’t use free lunch program as poverty indicator

    Indiana is changing the way it counts low-income students in public schools because Republican legislators suspect fraud in the federal school-lunch program used to measure poverty.

    May 23, 2013