Indiana Senate unanimously approves Charbonneau water legislation

State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, at lower podium on right, speaks about his water infrastructure legislation Monday in the Indiana Senate. Both proposals passed unanimously.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Senate is following state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, as he develops the policies that likely will shape how the state's water is obtained, distributed and used for decades to come.

Senators voted 49-0 Monday for Charbonneau's Senate Bill 361, establishing a nine-member Water Infrastructure Task Force that will study Indiana's existing drinking water and wastewater management systems, and develop by the end of the year a long-term plan for meeting the state's future water needs.

Among the items the task force will consider are funding mechanisms for water and wastewater system improvements, as well as recommending who should bear the financial burden of making those improvements.

"One thing we know for sure is we have a huge funding gap," Charbonneau said. "We have over $2 billion in immediate needs for (water) infrastructure and around $800 million (a year) over the next 20 years."

The Senate also voted 49-0 for Charbonneau's Senate Bill 362, requiring any new or significantly expanded water utility to operate with oversight by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for its first decade in business.

"What we're trying to address is to make sure that those utilities that come on stream have the ability to manage assets and to fund assets for the long term," Charbonneau said.

Both measures now advance to the House.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan has reported on Indiana state government for The Times since 2009. He also covers casinos, campaigns and corruption.