Over the past several years, there has been a lot of noise surrounding Geist Lake Coalition’s goals and activities, their insistence to create a conservancy district, and the general effort to expand and preserve the lake for the community. We’d like to provide some insight for our new neighbors into what we’re doing and why it’s so important to the immediate and long-term health of the lake.

As a brief historical recitation, the Geist Lake Coalition (“GLC”) was first formed in 2003 to take over Geist Reservoir’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display from local volunteers who had championed this cornerstone event for years. We took it over to keep the vibrant celebration alive for those who call Geist anything from a favorite summer spot to a home.  Once the GLC became involved and the lake’s other needs became apparent, the GLC started taking on projects such as organizing regular trash pick-up, mitigating sediment loads flowing into the reservoir, and developing and implementing a lake treatment program as issues started to arise with the increase of aquatic weeds, algae blooms, and zebra mussels. It soon became apparent to us that the reservoir was showing serious signs of decline with each passing season. 

Projects the GLC were undertaking to slow this decline quickly outgrew the available funds from generous donors. To more effectively accomplish our goals of preserving the Reservoir for generations to come the GLC researched several solutions and ultimately decided that while not perfect, the only viable solution was to establish a conservatory district (“CD”). The CD’s mission became clear following the realization of accelerating decline and more aggressive project undertakings: to restore, preserve, and protect the reservoir by enacting a long-term, sustainable, and equitable solution to mitigating environmental damage and triaging existing and ongoing damage. The reservoir is a shared asset for the public—everyone from weekend warriors to full-time residents–and we all share a stake in its well-being. Fundraising efforts allowed the GLC to conduct engineering studies through third-party professionals that ultimately confirmed the need for a CD.

We fully believe a CD would benefit the entire Geist area community. It will protect and preserve property values in the area and it will encourage people to reside in the area.   

To continue the GLC’s history of transparency and grassroots advocacy in the community, we’d like to highlight some of the aspects we think are most important to understand about the urgency and necessity of the CD:

The Life of a Reservoir

Most reservoirs have a useful life of 50 to 100 years. That means that after a period of time, a reservoir, without proper maintenance, repair and improvements, returns to a creek, no longer usable as a reservoir. Geist was built in 1943 and has received little to no systemic maintenance in its 78 years of existence. Without proper maintenance, including dredging and treatment of invasive plant growth, Geist will continue to deteriorate. These are merely examples of an accelerating rate of deterioration that must be addressed to prevent future decline. 

Reservoir Responsibility

People have posited that Indianapolis, Fishers, Citizens Energy Group, or the Marina Limited Partnership should take on the responsibility of treating the lake. The reality is that none of those entities is or will take responsibility. Citizens has indicated multiple times, on and off the record, that it has no responsibility to maintain Geist other than for drinking water purposes. 

By establishing a Conservancy District, we can build a mechanism to fund the improvement and maintenance of the reservoir long-term.

Reservoir Treatment

Unfortunately, sedimentation, coupled with extreme nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the reservoir, has necessitated the treatment of the lake to curb the growth of invasive and harmful species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, algae, duckweed, and other harmful weeds.  As you might imagine, it is not enough to treat lakes such as this and there are established protocols approved by the EPA, IDEM and other governmental agencies, not to mention Citizens Water. The GLC follows all recommended governmental protocols whenever it treats the reservoir. In addition to facilitating boating, and general recreation of the lake, reducing these noxious weeds, including algae, has greatly reduced the number of public health warnings around human and animal exposure to the water.

 

A Cautionary Tale: Grand Lake in Ohio

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. Mary’s, 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. 

The government and DNR did begin to restore Grand Lake, but because it was addressed so late in the deterioration, the reservoir was closed for multiple years. Property values declined significantly (to the tune of $51,000,000 in lost property value). 

Charity Navigator

It’s been noted that Geist Lake Coalition is a nonprofit with a failing grade on Charity Navigator, which is a website that auto-mines data from IRS tax returns. We brought these issues to the attention of our tax preparation firm and have been assured this will be rectified in the future. 

The need for a Conservancy District is more apparent than ever; we’ve seen what can happen if we don’t address the issue of our deteriorating reservoir. Our goal is to establish the Geist Conservancy District to help us restore, preserve, and protect our most valuable asset.

Sincerely,

The Geist Lake Coalition

Have additional questions? Check out our FAQ page or reach out to us at info@geistconservancy.org