White River suffered a devastating blow in December 1999. Five million fish in this waterway were dead, all the way from Anderson to Indianapolis — the result of a deadly and intentional chemical discharge. Members of Friends of the White River were among the first to alert the state, news media and the public. And we’ve continued to work to make sure that the seriousness of this event isn’t ever underestimated or forgotten.
State and federal officials negotiated a $16 million settlement with Guide Corporation, a manufacturer that admitted responsibility in the incident. That settlement funded a $6 million restoration trust.
Restoration projects, funded by the trust , helped the river recover. Fish restocking, land acquisition, conservation easements and ripirarian buffer strips top the list. Funding decisions were made by three trustees, with input from a 10-person White River Citizens Advisory Council.
Fish have returned. They are naturally moving in from tributary streams, and restocking of sports species has been underway since the spring of 2000. And people care more than ever. New recreational areas, including boat and canoe launching facilities, make it easier for more people to become engaged with the river and help protect it. Elected officials, the Indiana state government agencies for which they have responsibility, and the news media are more aware than ever of how much people have come to value a waterway that is one of the state’s premier natural resources.