Charlotte Zietlow’s Story

On May 22, 2002, Charlotte Zietlow was the keynote speaker at the Friends of Lake Monroe fundraiser held at the Lake Monroe Sailing Association.  Here is the story she told, about her long route becoming a friend of Lake Monroe.

I had no idea that southern Indiana was like this because I went to school in Valparaiso and I thought Indiana was flat and boring and I sure wasn’t looking forward to coming down here.  But I did.  My husband got a job at IU and that was what we did.  We came down and we drove around.  We were driving up and down the hills and there were houses with peonies out in front and all sorts of people parked along the road who were digging up these bushes and putting them into their cars and I thought “That’s strange.”  Well, the peonies survived the lake but the houses didn’t.  We took the Louisville Courier Journal because the [local] paper wasn’t very good here and so we didn’t know what was happening.  One day, I was driving around with Rebecca in the back seat, and I was coming down Ramp Creek Road, and I came to water.  All in front of me there was water, water, water.  I thought “What’s going on here?”  I called somebody and they said, “Well, what’s happening is that we have a lake.  We’re making a lake.”  I said “But there are all those houses down there” and they said “Yeah, they’re going to be in the lake.”

I come from Wisconsin and Minnesota.  In Minnesota we have 10,000 lakes and Wisconsin is the Land of Lakes.  And those lakes were made by Babe the Blue Ox.  Does everybody know who Paul Bunyan is?  So Paul Bunyan took his blue ox to Minnesota with him and the blue ox was kind of testy and he would pound his feet into the ground and a lake would come up.  He went stomping around Minnesota and the lakes came up.  Those were the lakes I knew.  Those lakes were clear and blue and clean.

So I thought that’s what lakes were.  I thought they were clean and clear and you could swim in them and you could drink the water.  Now comes Lake Monroe, and I was very suspicious.  But I didn’t know a whole lot about what had come before and I didn’t know that the Corps of Engineers had taken the place of Babe the Blue Ox, and made this lake for recreation purposes  and flood control.  And I think a lot of people who were involved in developing Lake Monroe bought property quickly down around the lake so that they could develop it and build houses.  I have not seen Lake Wawassee but I can imagine what it’s like and it’s not what I would think of as a lightly used lake.  But I think that’s what they had in mind.

Anyway, I didn’t think much more about it and then in 1971, I had come back from Europe and I ran for City Council.  That was a beautiful year in Bloomington as you probably know.  There were 8 or 9 of us who ran for City Council and Frank McCloskey ran for mayor.  Miraculously, despite everybody’s belief, we all got elected.  We had not discussed Lake Monroe.  What we had said was “We’re for the people.  We want to hear from you and what your concerns are.  Come and tell us what you’re worried about and we’ll figure out how to deal with it.”

Our first meeting was in January of 1972 and there were hundreds of people squeezing into the council room, which was in what is now the police station.  Everybody had something to say.  Somebody said we needed a place to deal with venereal diseases – that had not come to City Council before.  Also drug problems, which were very serious then, as now, and one thing after another.  In 1972 the [Indiana University] School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) was brand new.  There was a group from SPEA at the meeting as well and when we got through all sorts of things like recycling and problems with no sidewalks, which we knew, and a whole bunch of other things which we expected to hear about, they brought us a multi-page report on Lake Monroe.  That was the lake that had been built by the Corps of Engineers.  They emphasized the importance of the lake as a source of potable water and the importance of keeping it clean and retaining it as a lake that will be [not just] for recreation and flood control but for livelihood, for living here.

It was a very impressive presentation and at the end they requested of the Council that we endorse their position but we had to be very careful.  The City Council voted, after much discussion (and you can go back and read it in the minutes), that we supported the position, that it was good.  We voted 9-0, including our Republican member Jack Morrison.  Frank McCloskey, for reasons that we couldn’t figure out, vetoed it, even though a resolution has no legal validity.  But he did, and so that allowed us to watch maybe more carefully because of that.   We also became aware that [although] this may not be on our agenda, that we had not talked about it in the campaign, we began to learn about it.  If anybody remembers Libby Frey, she also came to that meeting.  Libby Frey was not on the faculty of SPEA but she and her husband [David] had come here and they were limnologists, a word I had never heard before, and they were very fervent supporters of Lake Monroe.  They were like protectors.  They were very vigilant and we learned to know them very well.

After awhile, the issue of what do we do about our utility became more important to us.  In 1974 or so, we discovered that our sewage treatment plant, Winston Thomas Treatment Plant, was over capacity and we needed a new sewage treatment plant.  So Black and Veatch, who had a permanent office in our water facility – I couldn’t understand that; this was a consultant that had moved in – was asked to come up with a solution to our sewage treatment plant needs.  They recommended a sewage treatment plant down by Lake Monroe, down at the end of the lake where it empties into Salt Creek.  That would be a very good place.  Well, of course it’s 15 miles or so south of the city so how are you going to get the sewage from the City of Bloomington to Lake Monroe?

Well, they had a wonderful idea.  They said it’s going to be gravity flow and it’s going to take a big pipe.  It’s gotta be 6 feet in diameter, a concrete pipe.  That’s what they recommended.  Somebody pointed out “How are you going to do that and where are you going to put it?”  They were going to put it in the ground.  Well, you can’t put it in the ground – it’s all limestone between here and the lake.  Well then, we’ll just lay it in Clear Creek and take it all the way down that way.  I had recently accidentally come upon Clear Creek where it’s so pretty.  Very, very nice.  The butterflies were out that day and there was a great view just off Ketcham Road and it was just beautiful.  So I thought “That’s too bad” and then Sassafras Audubon Society said “Absolutely not.”  They came to us and said “You can’t let that happen.”  Well, maybe [Black and Veatch] had it worked out but it was going to cost something like $45 million to do this interesting thing.   We needed federal funds cover it and the Audubon Society said to get the federal funds you’re going to have to get an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate if it would have any impact on the environment.  A six-foot diameter concrete tube going down Clear Creek.  It didn’t sound as if they’d find it acceptable.

I somehow was invited to a group meeting up at the Governor’s office.  Governor Bowen was not there but Lieutenant Governor Orr was there, and the Attorney General, and the head of IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) at the time, and the head of the water management group (this was when we still had a water management group), and somebody from the EPA, and a bunch of other lawyers.  Lieutenant Governor Orr said to Bill Cook, who was the chair of the committee, what is now the Utilities Service Board, “Okay, Bill, you called this meeting.  What are we here for?”  And Bill said “Well, we have this need, we need this sewage treatment plant for Monroe County and Black and Veatch, their recommendation to the board is to run the sewage pipe down the middle of Clear Creek.  Then we’ve got these crazy people – you know Bloomington – we’ve got these crazy people like Barbara Restle and Warren Henegar, who don’t want anything to happen.  They are fussing about it and they want this Environmental Impact Statement.  We’re here today to figure out how to bypass that requirement.”  And I said, without thinking, frankly, “Why would you do that?”  I have never been in such an uncomfortable place.  Someone said “Who brought you?”

I headed back to Bloomington and I was feeling sick.  It made me sick to my stomach, actually, and I thought “We have to get this in the paper.”  So I called the paper when I got back to Bloomington and they were having none of it.   Bill Schrader was the publisher and I said “It’s public information.”  They said “Oh, no we can’t do that.”  I remember I tried the radio station and the other newspaper and nobody wanted to do anything about it.  We had just established CATS (Community Access Television Services) and so the City Council meetings were on television.  The Council said “Charlotte, just give a report on this at the meeting.”

So I did.  And all hell broke loose.  And we did have to get an Environmental Impact Statement and of course the EPA, which was new and vigorous at the time, said “No, no, no, no, you’re not going to get money for something like this.”  So we don’t have it there; we have it at Dillman Road.

I kept thinking “Why would they do that?”  It became obvious that if we had had it [the sewage treatment plant] down there, where they wanted it, it would have allowed the sewers to run from there on both sides of the lake.  It would be developable and you wouldn’t have to worry about septic systems.  It would have been expensive but people would have paid for it to have this beautiful view.  We didn’t have it there and Bill Cook never forgave me for that but I lived to tell the story.

And so I love Lake Monroe.  I feel sometimes – I came down here one day with Chris Gaal on his sailboat and I looked across the lake and it was beautiful.  I didn’t see anything but water and boats.  I didn’t see a lot of mansions right on the lake.  And I felt really good about what I did.  And so I am a friend of Lake Monroe – I never would have guessed that I would be that way but I am.  And I hope you enjoyed it.

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