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Monday, June 24
The Indiana Daily Student

city politics

City council postpones vote on pipeline resolution following pushback from mayor

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The Bloomington City Council postponed a vote on a resolution that, if passed, would express the City’s opposition to a state-sponsored project that could divert up to 100 million gallons of water a day from the Wabash River into Boone County, Indiana. The council voted to postpone a vote until their next meeting March 27 after Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomson and several community leaders cautioned supporting the resolution could damage the City’s relationship with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, which is managing the project. 

In May 2023 the IEDC, a public-private partnership charged with growing Indiana’s economy, signed a $10 million contract with the state to create a 35-mile water pipeline running from Lafayette to Lebanon, Indiana. This pipeline would divert water to Boone County to support the IEDC’s Limitless Exploration Advanced Pace District, a 9,000 acre planned unit development in Boone County and Lebanon, Indiana, that officials hope will attract high-tech manufacturing and corporate industries.  

According to a council memorandum, the resolution expresses the city’s solidarity with Indiana residents who would be affected by diverting water from their primary water source. Tippecanoe County residents formed a group called “Stop the Water Steal” to oppose this proposed pipeline in November 2023. Citizens Action Coalition, a consumer advocacy group, also criticized the IEDC for a lack of transparency with the public when developing project plans.  

After this pushback from Central Indiana residents, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb paused further development until the Indiana Finance Authority conducts a study to estimate the groundwater and surface water demand and availability in the region.  

The governing bodies for the cities of Attica, Lafayette, West Lafayette and Monticello, as well as Miami, Benton and Tippecanoe counties, have passed legislation opposing the project, according to the council memorandum. 

David Sanders, an at-large representative on the West Lafayette City Council, and Attica Mayor Larry Grant attended Wednesday’s meeting by Zoom and urged the council to support the resolution.  

“This resolution has been passed in 20 different local governments currently because people understand that this isn’t just an issue of the water resources and the aquifers in Tippecanoe County this is an issue that affects all of us,” Sanders said. “Anyone with a water resource is potentially at risk if we don’t take action now.”  

However, Thomson asked the council to table the resolution until after the Indiana Finance Authority finishes its water study in the area. She also pushed back on allegations that the state and IEDC were being secretive with the project.  

“In many ways [this is] a groundbreaking economic development district,” Thomson said. “It will impact wages and job growth in Indiana and set a precedent for how we can do economic development even here in Bloomington.”  

Instead of entirely opposing the pipeline, she urged the council to amend the resolution to ask the state for a state comprehensive water plan. She also asked the council to amend the wording in the resolution to clarify that the governing body opposes the LEAP project, not the city, until her administration has more time to review the plan. 

She also noted the city, on behalf of the Indiana Uplands region, has submitted a $75 million proposal to the IEDC. 

Jennifer Pearl, president of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation, Tina Peterson, president of Community Foundation of Bloomington-Monroe County and Christopher Emge, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, also expressed during public comment they were concerned passing the resolution could harm relationships with the IEDC.  

Councilmember Andy Ruff, who co-sponsored the resolution, said this legislation is not intended to criticize the IEDC as an institution, just the project.  

“We should be able to oppose and criticize this project without being accused of or feeling like we’re risking our relationship and risking future resources and access to the IEDC,” Ruff said.  

The council voted 8-1 to postpone a vote on the resolution until their meeting March 27. Councilmember Isak Asare was the only member to vote against postponing the vote.  

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified where the founders of the group “Stop the Water Steal” are based.

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