WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)—It started with a mandate from U.S. Fish and Wildlife. A mandate the organization says is backed by the Endangered Species Act, requiring NIPSCO to keep water flowing from Lake Freeman toward the Oakdale Dam to preserve what U.S. Fish and Wildlife says are endangered mussels.
Things have now taken a sharp turn and the mandate is ruffling feathers for people living on both lakes. Natural gas and electric company NIPSCO released a statement saying in order for it to meet the federal requirements it may need to utilize the Norway Dam to draw on Lake Shafer.
"It was bound to happen because we are not getting rain," said Mike Triplett. Triplett is a homeowner on Lake Shafer. He also owns Lighthouse Lodge Bed & Breakfast on Lake Shafer.
"Lake Freeman is deeper and wider than Lake Shafer so they have more water than we do but it doesn't matter when they are taking it out at 500 cubic feet per second when only 200 cubic feet per second is coming in, it's going to drain fast," said Triplett.
The announcement for NIPSCO to draw on Lake Shafer came as Lake Freeman water levels have dropped 12 feet and continue to drop. It's also important to note that most of Northern Indiana is experiencing an abnormally dry season. Triplett said things have gotten out of control.
"It was logical to take it out of Shafer although we don't agree with it," said Triplett. "We'll both be in the same condition if we don't get rain, we are both going to be in the same condition very quickly."
Shafer Freeman Lakes Environmental Conservation Corporation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife are currently waiting for a decision from judges out of Washington D.C. after having oral arguments in court on October 5th. SLFECC is hoping to have a response within 30 to 60 days.
"They are asking for enough water to keep almost 2 feet of water above the mussels down in the lower Tippecanoe River," said Triplett. "Why can't they lower that to one foot of water, still keeps the mussels alive and saves Lake Freeman."
As News 18 has previously reported SFLECC isn't against saving endangered mussels. If things work out in SFLECC's favor the group hopes to create a plan with U.S. Fish and Wildlife that'll preserve mussels and keep Lake levels where they should be.
News 18 reached out to NIPSCO in hopes of receiving a timeline on when the company may start drawing from Lake Shafer or if it already has.
Click here for more information on SLFECC.