Moose Lake topic of Wednesday meeting

Published 2:24 am Tuesday, May 24, 2005

By By RANDI K. PICKLEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Kenneth Smith Inc. owns approximately 150 acres of land on Barron Lake Road in Howard Township and wants to eventually form a 30-acre lake from the four, large man-made ponds that currently exist.
The Howard Township Zoning Board will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Howard Elementary School in Niles to discuss the proposed plan to develop the Moose Lake Aggregate into a single lake.
Smith, president and co-owner of Kenneth Smith, Inc. and Moose Lake Aggregates, will present the proposal to the zoning board and the local citizens at the meeting.
The ponds are the result of a gravel pit mining process.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has already issued a permit for the proposed lake that will be dug to a depth of the recommended 40 feet to discourage unwanted plant growth that could alter the water quality.
Smith, who has hired consultants from Landmark Engineering, a firm that does hydro-geological studies to evaluate the affect the proposed changes might have on the environment, is confident that the lake is a plus for the community.
According to some of the neighbors, they are still concerned about the ground water.
Larry Eckler, who owns a farm across the street and sells the produce he grows, said, "the aquifer levels aren't the same for everyone out here. Our well is 90 feet. My mom's is 75 feet. Most of them range between 65 and 100 feet in this area. We are concerned that from the surface of the soil and through the depth of the lake, the total might reach a depth of 85 feet. Some aquifers could be concerned."
Another neighborhood concern has been the noise level. According to Bill Babbs, who lives next door to the gravel pit, "We've had problems with dust and sometimes excessive noise, but I never griped about it much. On an average day, I'd say there are usually around 150 trucks that go in and out. But it's on a schedule and it's only seasonal. The noise never really bothered me, though."
Babbs also said of the lake project, "I can't say much against it. When all is said and done, if they do what they say they're going to do, it should work out OK."
In addition to the cessation of noise from the trucks and reduction in the amount of dust when the lake is finished, Smith stressed that the community would see other benefits from the lake when it ceases to be a gravel pit.
One of the benefits to the community will be that property values will increase by having water property nearby. The lake will also act as a drain for cold air to help prevent frost damage to the farmer's crops."
Eckler disagrees with that, however.
Since the neighborhood has farms that sell their produce, Smith paved the entrance to the gravel pit so that dust would be at a minimum.
Smith said that if his plans are approved, a natural habitat would be developed around the lake to encourage wildlife, including trees and other flora that would surround the site and allow the wildlife some privacy.
Currently, Moose Lake Aggregates mines sand and rock to sell to asphalt and concrete paving projects such as those used on the Indiana Toll Road. Smith said the process they use to mine and process the sand and rock is chemical-free. "There is no effect to the environment since we only use water to wash the stone. Then we recycle the water," he said.
Smith is a Niles native, having attended the Brandywine Schools. According to Smith, although he now lives in Mishawaka, he is still concerned about the welfare of his community and hopes that the Moose Lake project will be a big plus for the township.
Smith said he hopes the township residents will attend the meeting Wednesday night so that they can fully understand the plans for Moose Lake and the benefits that it will bring to the community.