STATEHOUSE (July 10, 2012) — State Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) sent a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe on Monday calling for the agency to reconsider a recent order that could dramatically lower the water level in Monticello’s Lake Freeman.
The agency on Sunday ordered the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) to maintain water flows through the Oakdale Hydroelectric Dam, taking water from Lake Freeman to protect the fanshell mussel population in the Tippecanoe River.
In his letter, Hershman notes that he shares the federal agency’s concern for local wildlife but is also “concerned that the process which led to this decision gave no opportunity for public input or evaluation of environmental, economic or human impact.”
Hershman said he is especially concerned the “unprecedented intervention” could result in a dramatic and rapid lowering of Lake Freeman water levels, creating a ripple effect that harms the local economy.
“Business owners in our area are already worried the lowering of Lake Freeman’s water levels is deterring customers,” Hershman said. “I am simply asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agency to review the wisdom of its decision before more employers are negatively impacted. In times of economic hardships, we must do everything we can to support businesses and prevent negative consequences that could potentially outweigh benefits.”
Hershman also noted current weather conditions are the result of natural forces, and artificial manipulation of river flows only acts as a “temporary, stopgap measure.” He expects other local and federal officials will call on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials to reconsider their decision as well.