New law will remove DNR oversight of dams near city of Peru

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Homeowners in a lake-filled housing development in northern Indiana will no longer be on the hook for major repairs to six aging dams under a new state law.

An amended law that takes effect July 1 removes the state Department of Natural Resources’ jurisdiction over the dams at the Hidden Hills housing addition near the city of Peru, the Kokomo Tribune reported.

Larry West, who owns property on one of the dams, said the cost to make repairs under DNR regulations would have been up to $4 million. But now the dams’ maintenance costs will be around $100,000.

“We’re going to do what has to be done, and not just satisfy a big wish list from the DNR,” West said.

Dams previously fell under DNR jurisdiction if they met one of three criteria. But the amended statute now requires dams to meet two of those criteria to fall under DNR’s jurisdiction.

West said the Hidden Hills dams are over 20 feet high but don’t fit the other criteria, meaning the DNR will no longer dictate how the structures are repaired or maintained.

Hidden Hills property owners were left having to pay for major repairs after the Indiana Supreme Court declined in November 2020 to take up a state appeals court ruling which found they were fully responsible for dams’ maintenance.

The DNR said the property owners had failed to maintain the dams and keep them in safe condition.

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