The White River is not an independent river.
Fed by many streams, the river carries runoff from central Indiana downstream, where the water eventually makes its way to the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River watershed is the fourth largest drainage system on the planet, which flows into one concentrated area – the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is experiencing a global environmental issue known as dead zones, where aquatic regions become so oxygen-deprived that they can no longer support marine life. Polluted runoff – largely in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus – from agricultural, industrial, and urban areas creates hypoxia, or dead zones. The White River watershed has no shortage of these areas, which drastically reduce the watershed’s ability to filter pollutants and contributes to these hypoxic conditions.
There has been an increasing effort to solve this problem, however, both locally and nationally. The Indiana State Department of Agriculture has partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other Federal and State Agencies to address the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Find out more about the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force and the Indiana State Nutrient Reduction Strategy. While hypoxic conditions still persist each year, these are steps in the right direction.
A Local Perspective
The majority of streams and sub-watersheds that make up the Upper White River watershed are listed as impaired, largely due to current agricultural operations, urbanization, and industrial development. This not only causes local issues such as polluted land and water, degraded wildlife habitat, and reduced recreational amenities, but also leads to more widespread problems like the dead zones experienced in the Gulf of Mexico.
What is the Upper White River watershed?The Upper White River watershed is the drainage basin for the West Fork of the White River, located in central Indiana. It is an 8-digit (05120201) hydrological unit code (HUC) watershed that was established by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). These hydrological units were developed as a tool for local and state agencies to use for watershed management.
The Upper White River watershed overlaps many different political and geographical boundaries, making management efforts fragmented and difficult. That is why HEC is working with other Partners for the White River to lessen the impact of agricultural, urban, and industrial water pollution within the Upper White River watershed and protect existing water resources.
What We DoOne aspect of our work is to protect the watershed from irresponsible development by monitoring proposed new developments and water permits that may have the potential to impact the environmental health of the watershed.
Through careful research, we provide scientific evidence and additional information to protect existing water resources and encourage ecologically-minded development within the watershed by utilizing the public comment opportunity. Public comments are part of the permitting process and they give citizens and organizations the opportunity to educate government agency decision-makers.
Types of environmental permits we watch:
- National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) Permits
- Section 401 Water Quality Certificates
- Section 404 Dredge and Fill Permits (Waters of the US and Jurisdictional Wetland filling)
- State Isolated Wetland Permits
Types of developments we watch:
- Zoning Ordinance Amendments
- Rezoning Petitions
Beaver Gravel Pit and Potter’s Bridge ExpansionBeaver Gravel and the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department submitted a rezone request to operate a sand and gravel mining operation in the floodplain of the White River, next to the historic Potter’s Bridge Park. HEC prepared technical comments urging the Noblesville Planning Commission to deny the rezone request because it would promote habitat loss and degrade the White River ecosystem.
Thanks to the tireless advocacy of local community group Don’t Leave It To Beaver and others who spoke out against the project, the plan commission issued an unfavorable recommendation to the Noblesville Common Council.
FedEx Parking Lot and Building ExpansionA new parking lot is slated for construction next to a 41-acre protected marsh in Boone County, Indiana. The developer of the parking lot applied for a State Isolated Wetland Permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to pave over high-quality, forested wetlands. Accordingly, HEC submitted comments to urge IDEM to deny the permit.
While the parking lot plan is moving forward, HEC’s comments prompted IDEM to require the Developer to redesign the parking lot so that it includes additional protective water quality measures and has less impact on wetlands.The White River: Reducing the Flood Risk
acres of land
Provides water for
of Indiana's population
How to Make a Difference
Want to help protect our waterways? Utilize HEC’s Citizen Guide to Watchdogging Water and Wetland Permits to get started!
Concerned about the potential impacts of a project? Contact email@example.com. We can work with you to help draft public comments, organize and educate your community, and contact responsible government officials.
Donations help support HEC’s work to protect Indiana’s water resources.