I have lived near water almost all my life, witnessing changes in water quality, devastation from factory wastes pollution waterways, and fish kills in Lake Michigan. In 1985, my family moved to a lake in Whitley County. At that time, 20 percent of residents lived at the lake year round. Currently, over 90 percent are full-time residents. We witnessed many small cottages built onto, or torn down to build new homes at all the lakes in Whitley County. Much farmland has been sold or auctioned off and homes have been built or turned into subdivisions. However, times have changed.
Tri-Lakes, Crooked Lake, Loon Lake, Goose Lake, along with the state of Indiana, paid for feasibility studies concerning water quality and what needs to be done to help protect our waterways. Hence, Tri-Lakes Sewer District was created and best management practices were established and put into place. All of Whitley County’s lakes and waterways are listed on the Indiana Impaired Waterways list. Impaired waterways have excessive nitrogen and phosphorous. These excessive nutrients cause algae growth. Blue green algae deplete oxygen levels in lakes, rivers and streams, curing fish kills. Our lakes have experienced that. e. coli can leach into lakes on run-off, leading to eutrophication or aging of lakes. In other words, the lake can die. This means they are not fit to have human contact, and fish cannot survive. North of Whitley County, Shipshewana Lake was deemed dead. The beaches were closed and property value declined. A feasibility study was done to find out what caused this. Most of the problem pointed to agricultural run-off from a duck confined feeding operation. You can find Lake Shipshewana’s feasibility study on the internet. They spent over $6 million to clean up the lakes watershed, creating wetlands to filter the run-off water. This seems like something that should have been prevented.
Northern and western Whitley County geographically is located on the continental divide in northern Indiana. We have many slopes and glacial lakes and rivers. When heavy rains come, lake levels rise rapidly from runoff carrying nutrients of all kinds. That will not change.
High taxes from Allen County make Whitley County sound like a good place to live. Building a new high school has given this county hope that it will draw more people here. From this, agricultural land continues to sell and rural residential properties are on the increase. Thorncreek Township alone has over $625 million in assessed values. According to information form many websites, large confined feeding operations lower values of property. If the assessed value of our properties plummet, who will pay for the new school?
In 2011, Whitley County developed a comprehensive plan for growth. Over 20 years ago, Whitley County has not re-evaluated the county’s ordinances for the changing times. Meanwhile, other counties have. I would certainly hope that Whitley County officials would take immediate action to create ordinances to protect rural residential, lake residential and all of our lakes in Whitley County. Our county should strive to promote healthy growth that would encourage people to live here, because times have changed. Let’s learn from what has happened in other counties and prevent a problem instead of having to spend millions of dollars in taxpayer’s money to try and fix it later on.
— Denise Heckman