Homer continues discussion regarding water sale to coal mine

For the Leader

 Two area farmers asked the Homer Village Board on Monday night to consider providing their businesses with water for their fields and livestock.

Crystal Allen, whose husband and other family members farm ground and raise livestock southeast of Homer near the proposed Sunrise Coal mine, told the village board Monday night that there are a lot of people in the direction of the proposed mine who could use water for irrigating their fields and watering their livestock.

 She said the village should allow anyone along a water line to the coal mine to hook up and also use the water.
 James Smith made the same request to the village board. He and his family farm thousands of acres in the area, and he said there are also seed companies that grow crops in the area, and water during the summer months to irrigate the fields could be very beneficial, especially in a drought year.

 The Homer Village Board has been considering whether to provide Sunrise Coal, based in Terre Haute, Ind., with 350,000 gallons a day of raw water in addition to providing potable water and sewer services to the surface operation of the proposed Bulldog coal mine that would be located over the county border in Vermilion County. The village board has recently received a report from a law firm that specializes in municipal utility law reviewing any legal concerns with the village selling water to the coal mine.
Lucas has said that the report indicates the village has the legal right to sell water to the mine, but the village board did not discuss the report in detail Monday night.

Instead, the board scheduled a special meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 26 to discuss the village’s moving forward with an agreement to provide hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw water to Sunrise. And, the special municipal law attorney will be at that special meeting to address all concerns and questions of the village board.
In response to the farmers’ request for water, Lucas said in the case of Sunrise, the coal mine would install the water line that would run water from Homer to the mine site, so if others are willing to run a pipeline to Homer, the village would be interested in selling them water, too.

He also said that earlier this year in a public forum in Homer where residents gathered to discuss the Sunrise water request, it was suggested that the village consider forming a water district outside of the village toward the coal mine area to also provide water to others in the area.

Lucas said the village board has discussed forming water districts outside the village in the past, specifically to residents in the Homer Lake area, where their wells are shallow, but the village has never considered one to the southeast until he heard the suggestion at the public forum.

But, Lucas said, later in that public forum it was stated that the goal is to stop the mine altogether. That, Lucas said, complicates forming any type of water district, because a public referendum would be necessary to form one and getting the required number of votes wouldn’t be possible if the goal is to stop the mine altogether.

 Lucas said he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a water district in that area in the future, but he doesn’t see that happening now.
“When ‘Stand Up to Coal’ decided to stop the coal mine, that put up a road block to forming any type of water district,” Lucas said. “Whether it could be done in the future, we have always been open to forming a water district and selling water in the area. It’s good for the whole area to have an adequate supply of water.”

Allen said water in the area of her farm is scarce, and they continually haul water in for their livestock, so although she’s against the coal mine coming to the area, if it does and water is piped there, then her family and other farmers and residents would be interested in the water, too.

“We would consider it,” she said. “They haven’t given us any costs. It might be too expensive, but it’s something to think about. There are thousands of (farmland) acres out there that people could irrigate.”


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