Karickhoff’s bill calls for the creation of a new state agency, the Water Management Authority, which would have broad powers to develop and implement a statewide water management plan. It would address issues like flood control, water storage and water pollution.
Some decisions now made at the local level or by other state agencies — ranging from ditch construction standards to flood control plans — would be assumed by the state Water Management Authority.
It creates regional water management councils that would identify the water needs of their region and work to better coordinate the management of water resources.
And it creates a kind of “water czar” whose job it would be to protect and manage the state’s water resources.
Bill Weeks, head of the Indiana Land Protection Alliance, chaired the task force that called for the state to elevate its role in water management.
At a joint hearing of the House and Senate natural resources committees Monday, Weeks said water had the greatest impact on the state’s other natural resources, including its 4 million acres of forestland.
“If I could make a plea,” Weeks said, “it would be to say that it’s time for us to look at water governance in this state.”
The legislation hasn’t gotten a hearing yet, but the idea of elevating the state’s role in water management was part of the “Roadmap for Indiana” proposal Gov. Mike Pence laid out in his campaign last fall. It called for directing state agencies to establish a plan for managing the state’s water resources and for accelerating the effort to clean the state’s waterways.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI newspapers in Indiana, including the Kokomo Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.