Webster Lake Conservation Association sues DNR over dam repairs

"Courtroom Gavel" by Joe Gratz, public domain

A court may have to decide who is responsible for reconstruction of a dam on Webster Lake.

Webster Lake Conservation Association filed a lawsuit Feb. 7 in Kosciusko County Circuit Court against the state of Indiana and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources over who is responsible for reconstruction of the dam.

Steve Snyder, attorney for the Conservation Association, said there are two dams on the lake and “We know there are at least some major repairs needed” to the dam on the south/southwest side of the lake at the beginning of Tippecanoe River.

The Conservation Association, the plaintiff in the complaint, was organized Oct. 3, 1950. It is the owner of a water control facility (dam) established for the maintenance of the lake level of Webster Lake, a public freshwater lake.

On April 11, 1996, the plaintiff and IDNR entered into an agreement in regard to the general maintenance and reconstruction or repair of the dam on the lake, the complaint states.

A copy of the 1996 agreement states that the “Association has the responsibility for the general maintenance of the outlet control structure to maintain, as near as possible, the legally established level of Webster Lake. The responsibility for reconstruction or repair of the outlet control structure shall remain with the Department of Natural Resources, State of Indiana.”

The lawsuit says a dispute exists between the plaintiff and defendants (state and DNR) as to the responsibility of the defendant (DNR) for the repair and reconstruction of the dam “as currently required by the (IDNR) and outlined in a document” titled “Webster Lake Dam 2017 Visual Inspection,” which was prepared by the IDNR.

Plaintiff is entitled to relief under the Indiana Declaratory Judgement Act, the complaint states. The Conservation Association asks that the IDNR be required to undertake reconstruction and repair of the dam as outlined in a 2017 Visual Inspection.