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“Anti-wetlands” bill, amendment headed for committee vote

By Linda Gibson

Senate Bill 389, which would end state regulation of dredging, filling, draining and discharging into most of Indiana’s wetlands, is scheduled for a hearing at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 7, before the Indiana House Environmental Affairs Committee, according to legislative media spokesman Jose DeFonce.

The bill also will include an amendment to be voted on. Dr. Indra Frank of the Hoosier Environmental Council described it: “Amendment 24 is much better than the original bill…, but it still reduces wetland protection.  It’s not good, but we have been warned that if Amendment 24 doesn’t make it into the bill, then something worse will pass.” DeFonce said no testimony would be taken.

The bill as written has attracted substantial opposition from at least 80 groups representing hunting, fishing, the environment, water quality, flood control and boating. It’s supported by five groups representing builders, manufacturers, farmers and developers.

Wood storks in wetlands

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Wetlands bill still in Indiana House

Indiana Senate Bill 389, which would abolish the law protecting most of the states’s wetlands, was given a hearing in the House Environmental Affairs Committee the morning of Monday, March 22nd. Testimony was heard and the bill was held for further discussion.

Five groups, representing builders, farmers, manufacturers and energy, support the bill. Seventy-five groups, representing environmentalists, hunters and state wetlands regulators, oppose it. Without the law in place, wetlands could be bulldozed, drained, filled or discharged into without oversight, Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman Barry Sneed said.

For more information on what wetlands do and why they’re important, see the story below called, “The future of Indiana wetlands: bald eagles or bulldozers?”

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Buy Water or Build a Pipeline? Joliet Decides

After several years of research and pondering, the city council of Joliet, Ill. decided Jan. 28 to buy its water from the Chicago Department of Water Management, relying on a 100-year contract to keep water rate increases in check.

The alternative, building its own pipeline to Lake Michigan, an intake and an advanced treatment plant, would have cost up to $1.4 billion. Capital costs for the Chicago plan were expected to be from $592 million to $810 million.

Council members voted seven to one in favor of the buy option. Average monthly water bills by 2040 were projected to hit $142 with the Chicago option, and $149 with the build-a-pipeline option.

Eventually, costs for the build option were expected to drop below the Chicago deal as capital improvements were paid for, but that apparently didn’t make the initial billion-dollar price any easier to swallow. City officials have pledged to come up with programs to help low-income residents pay their higher water bills.

Failing aquifers that supply the city’s wells forced the city to decide one way or the other. By 2030, some of the city’s wells are expected to be dry.

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The Billion-Dollar Question: What Should Joliet Do?

By Linda Gibson

Dollar symbols flowing from an open faucet. Digital illustration.

The city of Joliet, Ill. can no longer rely on depleted aquifers to supply enough water to its failing wells. It can spend $900,000,000 to $1.1 billion building its own pipeline to Lake Michigan at a site in Hammond, Ind., or it can buy water from a lakeshore city such as Chicago. Mayors of both cities traveled to Joliet to make personal pitches to the city council for a contract.

With its own pipeline, rates for residents are expected to go up from an average of $30.75 a month to almost $100 a month. However, the city’s analysis predicts this would be less expensive in the long run than buying water. Owning a pipeline to the lake would let Joliet set its own rates, and pump surplus water to sell.

As a customer, it would have some bargaining power, but would it have enough to convince residents after rate increases imposed by another city that they’re getting the best deal?

Design, routing, permitting and construction must begin quickly to meet a deadline of 2030, when at least four wells will be close to failing. The city council aims to make a decision in January 2021.

What would you decide?