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Farmers Fear Project Threatens Their Future and Could Take Their Water

“Stop the Water Steal” are the words printed on signs in rural Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Those signs are residents’ way of protesting a plan that would pump tens of millions of gallons of water each day from the aquifers to supply a 9,000-acre industrial park in nearby Boone County.

Tippecanoe County is home to about 189,000 people according to the 2022 U.S. Census, and it lies about 20 miles east of the Illinois state line.

The industrial park in Boone County coordinated by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation is called the LEAP Innovation and Research District.

Organizers of the project describe it this way on the development’s website:

“The LEAP Innovation District aims to establish the next district of global innovation, Sustainable Development, and a vibrant mixed-use community. The LEAP Innovation District will be home to industry-leading companies and startups in advanced manufacturing, technologies and research creating a district of innovation, knowledge, and technology.”

Thousands of acres of farmland in central Indiana would become the business district. Pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly confirmed in April 2023 that it would build a $3.7 billion manufacturing facility in the district.

There is not enough water in Boone County to meet the needs of the business district. That is why developers want to bring in water from Tippecanoe County’s Wabash River.

In November Governor Eric Holcomb ordered the Indiana Finance Authority to lead a study on how the pipeline would affect water supplies for Tippecanoe County. Watch the WRTV story on that here. 

The soil is sandy in parts of Tippecanoe County. Farmers rely on irrigation to improve their crops’ chances. They are concerned that the new pipeline could threaten their access to water.

The president of the Indiana Farm Bureau shares the water concerns because of the pipeline project. Brownfield has this interview with Randy Kron here. Kron believes that the project has become an election issue for residents as they think ahead to November.


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