Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Toward the end -- Part 5

Creeks near the lake
As the rock moved downhill toward the change in the valley of the East Fork, it's important to know that not everyone was on board with construction of a multimillion-dollar reservoir north of Brookville.

A group known as the Whitewater Valley Citizens Committee was quite active in opposing the reservoir, despite a general acknowledgement that flood control on the Whitewater River was vital.

Instead, this committee proposed and supported with research an alternative known as the Small Watershed Project. 

Beginning in early 1963, the committee met regularly in Fairfield and in adjoining homes, primarily to push for support of the watershed agenda. A key voice in that fight was a guy named Floyd Howard, who lived in the Dunlapsville area. Howard was quite active in lobbying the region's state and federal lawmakers.

To no avail, obviously.

Howard's approach was to promote development of existing recreational opportunities in the valley as opposed to sweeping them all away in one gigantic move. 

He wrote in a letter to the Brookville newspapers in 1963: "Make no mistake about it, not building the Brookville reservoir will not mean that there cannot be lakes available for fishing, boating, etc. They can be built under the watershed program. Smaller, yes, but not too small to be of great recreational benefit to this part of Indiana."

Howard's dream was to dam up smaller creeks and tributaries along the East Fork to provide a series of smaller lakes that could also help prevent excessive runoff into the river. The larger picture, Howard envisioned, spread that project out over a much larger area.

The government wasn't buying it, however. 

The committee included several prominent residents in the valley, notably Carl Huber, Orval Sintz, Edgar Schwegmann, Donald Davis. It's not clear who favored which approach, but all agreed that discussion was useful.

The committee eventually ruled that "the benefits to the local economy would not be so great as some would claim."

The standing strategy: "There are many who may be affected who do not know it. It seems to be impossible to obtain this information from the agencies which may be able to enlighten the people. The Citizens group feels that the affected individuals should be informed of the proposed plans."

Perhaps a bit of undue concern, but at the time the reservoir project lacked detail. It would be a couple of years before the "enlightenment" actually came.

Howard's ongoing crusade was relentless. He wrote regularly in the local newspapers about the subversion of common sense, citing soil and water conservation programs around Indiana that his watershed plan held ... well, water.

Meanwhile, the dam moved forward.

"So now the issue is up again," Howard wrote in March 1963. "It is the same monster that has plagued America for the last 20 years. We believe this river was not intended to be included by Congress when they gave the Corps (of Engineers) the area of the 'major navigable river or tributary.' The East Fork ... is surely of such size that it would be practical for P.L. 566."

Public Law 5566 was a federal program from 1954 that Howard believed applied more to the East Fork than the Army Corps of Engineers did as it continued forward patiently toward the inevitable. P.L. 566 was designed to let local groups solve watershed problems without the aid of the massive federal government. It was aimed at local flood control and soil erosion.

And in November 1965, the government awarded the first contract to the Detroit firm of R.E. Dailey, which had bid just over $1.8 million to construct the outlet works at the south end of the valley. It was there that the control tower was built.

From that point forward, Howard and his Citizens Committee became less and less relevant.

Though not completely irrelevant.

In January 1964, another watershed project on the East Fork, in addition to the reservoir, began to show life.

That project was to include another 18 smaller lakes, mostly in Wayne County, all ranging in size from 40 to 130 acres. In total, more than 250,000 acres were to be affected by the program, that including the Brookville lake. 

Its purpose? Flood control? 

Hardly. The small lakes were to be permanent, clearly for recreation, though the principle was vaguely disguised as integral to flood control in the upper part of the valley that contained the East Fork of the river.

Some locations where retention ponds were to be located: Southeast of Yankeetown; Nut Run, east of Liberty; north of Middleboro; Bethel; Vernon (all in Wayne County); several others between Richmond and Abington in southern Wayne County; others in Randolph County and in Darke County, Ohio.

That watershed program eventually changed and underwent modifications along the way and it's of marginal interest to Fairfield, though presumably the nature of Brookville Lake has been affected by it.

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