TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. — The most ambitious project to date for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) needs water — a lot of it, reportedly tens of millions of gallons a day.
The LEAP District is 9,000 acres near Lebanon in Boone County. Envisioned is a sprawling high-tech campus, home to hundreds of companies. Eli Lilly has already committed to being the cornerstone tenant and has broken ground on a $3.7 billion pharmaceutical manufacturing plant.
Supplying water to the project and the projected growing surrounding community is a challenge. For that, IEDC has been looking towards Tippecanoe County and the Wabash River aquifer beneath it.
The Tippecanoe County Commissioners want the IEDC to look elsewhere.
Tippecanoe Commissioners Monday morning unanimously passed a moratorium on “high volume water export(s).” The new county ordinance makes it illegal to extract five million gallons of water or more per day from Tippecanoe County. The moratorium is in effect for the next nine months.
The vote was met with applause from an overflow crowd, which made it clear they did not like the idea of a proposed pipeline carrying groundwater some 35 miles away.
“There will not be one gallon moving down South. Tell them all, no. You picked the wrong county. You picked the wrong state. Go someplace else,” said West Lafayette resident Cheryl Kirk Patrick during the meeting’s public comment period.
Commissioners said despite repeated assurances from the IEDC, they still had questions and concerns about whether drawing down enormous amounts of water would impact the quality and availability of water to Tippecanoe County residents.
The author of the moratorium ordinance County Attorney Doug Masson noted while he believes the water export ban is within the county’s authority, state lawmakers could amend the Indiana Code to change that.
IEDC Vice President of Strategic External Communication Erin Sweitzer dismissed the mortarium as “moot” and was put in place to “stoke further rhetoric and misinformation.”