Milan Officials Ask For Citizens’ Help To Save Lake
By Mike Perleberg
(Milan, Ind.) – One of Milan’s most valuable natural resources is in danger of drying up unless the town can find the funding to save it.
Milan Lake is used for irrigation at Hoosier Links Golf Course. Visitors to Darren Baker Memorial Park use it for fishing and recreation. Neighboring homes get a scenic lake view from their porches. It is even sometimes used as a water source for the fire department.
“It’s important to the town. No doubt about it. That’s why we are working so hard to fix this,” says State Representative Randy Frye (R-Greensburg).
The 18-acre lake isn’t naturally occurring. It exists because of an earthen dam that doubles as a support for CSX’s railroad. Milan Town Attorney Larry Eaton tells Eagle 99.3 that dam was built by a railroad company in the late 1800s to create the lake for the steam engines that once roared through town.
However, after well over a century in service, the dam has deteriorated. Engineers hired jointly by the Town of Milan and CSX have determined that the dam is at significant risk of failure, Eaton says. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has agreed with the inspectors’ assessment.
The DNR has initiated administrative action to require that the lake be addressed with one of two options. The first is to remove the dam, thus draining and eliminating Milan Lake. The second option would be more costly, but would allow the lake to stay. For a cost of about $2 million, the dam could be rehabilitated.
To reduce the risk of failure until a direction is chosen, Eaton said CSX has installed a siphon to keep the lake about three feet below its normal water level.
“The Town Council hopes that there will be sufficient water in the lake to continue serving the golf course until a permanent solution is achieved,” said Eaton.
Some residents have also been angered at the changes recently seen in the water level, but Frye said saving the lake is the ultimate goal.
The situation began about three years ago, Frye explains. He credits CSX officials for coming a long way in negotiating with the town for a solution. Milan’s contract with CSX, which dates back to the 1940s according to Frye, makes the dam the town’s responsibility.
Frye has been advocating for a federal grant through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The grant, he said, would pay about half the cost of rehabilitating the dam. A tentative agreement would see the town and the railroad company share the remaining cost.
The process of obtaining the OCRA grant includes a public survey. Survey were recently distributed to Milan residents, but so far the return rate has been low, Eaton said. Town officials are resorting to going door-to-door asking residents to complete the survey.
“The Town Council urges the residents of the town to complete the income surveys which have been distributed. The surveys are confidential. The surveys are essential to the town’s application,” the town attorney said.
Residents who have misplaced their survey form can obtain a new one at the Milan Town Hall, 211 West Carr Street. State rules do not allow the distribution of the survey forms online, Eaton said.
“The Town needs all the help it can get,” he added.