Reservoir Conservancy District Questions

What exactly are we petitioning for?

This petition is the first step in creating the Geist Reservoir Conservancy District and the start of a process to create a structure through which the waterfront homeowners around Geist can speak with one voice. It will create an equitable and sustainable revenue stream to allow for the restoration, preservation, and protection of the reservoir.

The process has no official timeline, but reasonable estimates indicate it will take between 16 and 30 months from the time the signed petition is filed with the Court.

What is a reservoir conservancy district?

Technically speaking, the Indiana Conservancy Act (IC 14-33) provides a mechanism by which landowners—through a circuit court process—can organize a special taxing district (a local unit of government) to solve specific local issues related to water resources management, including managing bodies of water used for recreation.

What this means to you is that if you live within the conservancy district, you will have a voice on how to manage the treatment of Geist Reservoir. There will be an initially appointed and then elected board of directors, with one member from each of the nine areas of the district, which will represent your interests.

Why form a reservoir conservancy district around Geist?

Creating a reservoir conservancy district allows waterfront property owners to have input on the management of the reservoir. While there are dozens of beneficial reasons to form the Geist Reservoir Conservancy District, the core rationale comes down to maintaining this tremendous community asset.

Geist has had more than its fair share of troubles in recent years. Zebra mussels, invasive species, algae blooms, prop strikes, boating accidents, water quality, and the like all create challenges that need long-term solutions.

People have posited that Indianapolis should take over the reservoir, or Fishers, or that Citizens Energy and Marina Limited Partnership should take on the responsibilities. The reality is—none of those entities are taking on this responsibility. And without proper maintenance, Geist will continue to decline. Sediment will continue to reduce the amount of usable lake area, and algae blooms will become more common and potentially become toxic.

Volunteer groups have operated with limited funding based on voluntary donations for years, and many feel it’s time to establish a governing body and financial resources to adequately maintain the reservoir and help preserve it for the good of our community.

Who is included in the Geist Reservoir Conservancy District?
The Geist Reservoir Conservancy District boundaries include all waterfront homes.

My house has a deeded dock, but I don’t live on the water. Will I be included in the District?
No – homes that are not on the water but have deeded docks are not included in the proposed district area. If homeowners outside of the currently proposed district area want to be included, the Indiana Conservancy Act provides mechanisms that those homeowners can use to be added to the district, either before or after the district is formally established.
What are my benefits as a homeowner?
The reservoir is a shared asset for all in our community, meaning we all have a stake in its well-being. Additionally, all Geist Neighborhood property owners benefit in some fashion from having a healthy, prosperous Geist Reservoir.

If the reservoir continues to deteriorate, property values (both on and off the water) will decrease. By forming a conservancy district, the waterfront homeowners will provide a revenue mechanism to provide funds to improve and maintain the reservoir long-term.

How does the Geist Reservoir Conservancy District Board of Directors Work?

The Geist Reservoir Conservancy District is split into nine areas, and each area is represented by one director. The future first Board will be appointed by the county commissioners. New board directors will be elected by the residents after the initial term of the appointed Board member expires.

Just like other elected local representatives, residents can provide input to their area director to make their interests known and run to be on the Board itself.

The Board itself will serve as the District’s governing body and publicize the bylaws, rules, regulations, and tax rates. There is no proposed salary for District board members.

What are the steps in forming a reservoir conservancy district?

Creating a reservoir conservancy district is a complex process with multiple steps. The major steps include:

    1. Once the required number of petition signatures have been collected, the petition will be filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court.
    2. Once the Court determines that a petition conforms to the requirements, the Court will refer the petition to the Natural Resources Commission (NRC).
    3. The NRC will review the petition, hold a hearing(s) and submit its report back to the Court.
    4. If the Court finds that the evidence does support the statements in a petition, the Court will order the District established for the purposes named in the petition.
    5. The initial Board of Directors will be appointed and immediately start drafting a District plan, which will then be reviewed by the NRC and ultimately approved by the Court.

Ecological Questions

What can happen without regular maintenance of Geist?
While most reservoirs have a useful life of 50 to 100 years, Geist was built in 1943—and since no one has taken on the responsibility of sustaining the reservoir over the decades, it’s received little to no systemic maintenance in its 78 years of existence.

This is an issue because without proper maintenance, including primarily dredging and treatment of plant growth, Geist will continue to deteriorate.

As an example of what can happen when long-term, systemic maintenance programs are not implemented, we can look to Grand Lake in nearby St. Marys, Ohio.Grand Lake, a reservoir of similar age with other similar sedimentation and runoff issues, suffered numerous blue-green algae blooms over the years and was declared toxic in 2010.

Not only did this force the lake to close for recreational use from 2010 to 2013, it’s also estimated that residents lost $51,000,000 in property value from the toxic algae bloom. Unfortunately, their problems continue to this day.

Aren’t many of the ecological problems caused by activities/conditions upstream?

Yes, upstream activities and conditions do contribute to the reservoir’s ecological problems. Unfortunately, the Geist community has no mechanism to speak with one voice on issues that affect the reservoir created by external forces. The District’s creation will result in one body having a stronger and unified voice to work with local units of government to encourage landowners upstream to act responsibly and work on stream bank erosion prevention and other measures.

The Geist Reservoir Conservancy District will consider silt control a slight distance upstream. But unfortunately, our budget will not allow much further. A reservoir conservancy district may allow the Geist community to work together to influence other spending to deal with the larger Fall Creek watershed and its effect on Geist.

What dredging activities is the District proposing?

The District is proposing dredging on both the main body and the coves.

The District will have bonding authority (a financing mechanism by which the District will borrow against future revenues), which allows for large dredging projects and other forms of reservoir maintenance (which might cost more than one year’s worth of revenue) to be accomplished.

How else can the Geist Reservoir Conservancy District improve Geist Reservoir?

Future activities of the Geist Reservoir Conservancy District could include many tasks to improve the overall experience of living around Geist. Those could include maintaining our catch basins and filter strips, stream bank remediation (including a short distance upstream), underwater hazard markings and/or removal, and installing wash-out stations for boat bilges.

Financial Questions

What is the proposed budget and avenues of funding?

The proposed budget is approximately $1,500,000 per year. The Geist Reservoir Conservancy District will be funded through a combination of:

  • Special benefits taxes (assessments against real property) that are collected in the same manner as property taxes. The SBA is based on a property’s assessed value. The higher the assessed value, the more the amount of the SBA will be for that property owner.
  • User fees (boat sticker) collected from all users of motorized watercraft on the reservoir.
Assumed Homestead Net Assessed
Estimated Special Benefits Assessments
Proposed Motorized Watercraft Permit Fees
Proposed Non-District Annual Watercraft Permit$250

*Assumes Typical Homeowner Exemptions & Supplemental Homestead Deductions

The vast majority of the funds will be used for dredging and lake treatment. The Geist Lake Coalition (GLC) has spent roughly $2,000,000 over the last 10 years on Geist Reservoir maintenance. All funds spent to date have been from donations and grants.

What types of fees will there be?

The District is proposing both daily and annual fees. The Board will set the user fee schedule and be responsible for the enforcement of District policies. Typically, fees are different for different types of watercraft and for daily or annual usage. 

We’re proposing that in-district residents pay a boat sticker fee of $125 a year and out-of-district boaters pay $250 a year.

If I have a deeded dock but am not a waterfront homeowner, will I pay the in-district fee or the out-of-district fee for my boat sticker?

The in-district fee will only apply to homeowners within the district area, who are subject to the special benefits taxes. If you have a deeded dock but don’t live on the water, then you will not be subject to the special benefits tax, and will pay the out-of-district boat sticker fee.

How will the district’s budget be affected by the reduction in number homeowners due to the change to a waterfront-only conservancy district?

The district’s budget will be reduced by approximately $500,000 per year.

Logistical Questions

Who owns Geist Reservoir?

Citizens Energy Group owns the reservoir and uses it to supply drinking water in central Indiana. Citizens has indicated that it has no responsibility to maintain Geist Reservoir other than for drinking water purposes.

Will Fishers, Citizens Energy Group, Indianapolis, and/or the State of Indiana contribute financially to the Geist Reservoir Conservancy District?

There are no financial commitments at this time from these stakeholders. Funding from state and federal agencies often takes the form of grants. The Geist Reservoir Conservancy District’s revenue streams will provide the required match to apply for such grants.

They have no role in creating, approving, or managing the District.

How much of the launch fees and dock rental fees collected by Marina Limited Partnership go to maintain the reservoir?

None of the launch or dock rental fees go towards maintaining the reservoir.