“We have a river and we need to make sure we can keep it.” West Lafayette opposes water pipeline to Lebanon
The West Lafayette City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday opposing a proposed water pipeline from Tippecanoe County down to Lebanon.
That supply is essential to the massive industrial park being built in Lebanon — and state officials hope to pipe millions of gallons for the project from Tippecanoe County.
So far, Eli Lilly is the only company to break ground at the park. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has said there is enough water to support Lilly’s $3.7 billion investment.
Both city officials and constituents spoke out against the proposed project during the city council meeting Monday.
Resolution sponsor David Sanders said it doesn’t make sense to bring water-intensive industries to a place that has no water.
“By our opposition today we bring attention to that and we hope that sort of lack of forethought will not be repeated in the future,” he said.
Sanders acknowledged that the city had little power to stop the pipeline – but said objecting to the project was important anyway.
“Our passing of this resolution doesn’t stop the project, we all know that,” he said. “...we’re told the project is of such and such a size. If there’s no opposition, if there’s no public discussion, no one is going to hold them to that size.”
Sanders pointed to Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski, who has asked whether withdrawals could be limited to keep more water from being taken in the future.
Many West Lafayette council members took time to specifically address their concerns about the project.
Mayor John Dennis also joined in, underscoring the region's water resources as a vital asset.
“We’re never going to have oceans,” he said. “We have a river and we need to make sure we can keep it.”
Speaking with reporters ahead of Monday’s council meeting, Dennis also acknowledged there was little the city could do beyond passing a resolution. But he said he felt it was still necessary to voice opposition to the pipeline.
“I, in a few short weeks, will be just John the citizen,” he said. “I don’t want to be encouraging the depletion of my resources in this seat when I’m going to be in the Barcalounger in just a little bit.”
Dennis nodded towards efforts at the Statehouse level to create regulations around water projects as a way to protect communities’ interests during future projects.
“We can’t stop the go through,” he said. “But we can make them [the state] jump through a few hoops before they get there.”
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation recently released the early findings of a study into regional water availability, which found there was “abundant” water to support growth in both Lebanon and the Greater Lafayette area.
When reached for comment on the resolution, an IEDC spokesperson said the corporation "stands by the encouraging findings that have been released thus far,” and would “continue to work with all stakeholders while studying the aquifer and will share all further results as promised."