Indiana Dunes
Administrative History
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COMING OF AGE, 1977—1979 (continued)

West Beach Dedication

Because West Beach construction had not been completed within schedule,* the Department and Service postponed the original dedication ceremony, September 11, 1976, in favor of a time when all construction activity ceased. That day came on May 21, 1977, with Congressman Floyd J. Fithian serving as the principal speaker at the one—hour ribbon-cutting ceremony. During his dedicatory speech, Fithian appropriately paused for a moment of silence in memory of Dorothy R. Buell, founder and first president of the Save the Dunes Council. Mrs. Buell, who died four days previously at her home in San Jose, had moved to California for retirement in 1968. The facility first accommodated the public at the end of the 1976 visitor season when fees were collected.

*An intense, Save the Dunes Council—led battle several years earlier prevented the Service's attempt to reprogram funds—including those for West Beach—to develop the "National Visitor Center" in Washington, D.C., in time for the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial. The Council blocked the effort with the assistance of Congressman Sidney Yates and Senator Birch Bayh. See Charlotte Read interview, 22 September 1987.

The significance of the opening of the long—awaited bathhouse was profound. The two million dollar project represented the first national lakeshore development for public use. Complete with parking for 600 cars and forty buses, the modern building featured showers, lockers, and a food service concessioner. [28] Not since the bathhouse at the Dunes State Park opened in the 1930s had such a grand public facility appeared on Indiana's lakeshore.

Of the forty—four rangers in the Visitor Protection Division, twenty—four employees were assigned to the West Beach area. This number included thirteen lifeguards. An attempt by Congressman Fithian to beef up the law enforcement capacity with a $140,000 add—on appropriation failed. [29]

The Bailly I Nuclear Debate

In the mid—1970s, an anti—nuclear movement formed in the Indiana Dunes with the Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, the Save the Dunes Council, and other area conservation and liberal groups at its core. With the addition of the American Friends Service Committee and the United Steelworkers Local 1010 representing 18,000 workers at Inland Steel Company the coalition formed into what became known as "the Bailly Alliance." [30] The Bailly Alliance was a vocal citizens lobbying group diametrically opposed to the Northern Indiana Public Service Company's (NIPSCO) construction of Bailly I adjacent to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Bailly Alliance remained an separate entity from the Joint Intervenors and the Concerned Citizens against the Bailly Nuclear Site, although in some cases membership overlapped. While the latter groups concentrated almost exclusively on legal avenues, the Bailly Alliance focused on mobilizing public opinion against the proposed nuclear plant.

On August 27, 1976, the Joint Intervenors filed a writ of certiorari (review) before the U.S. Supreme Court. Joined by the Attorney General of the State of Illinois and the City Attorney of Gary, the Intervenors charged NIPSCO's proposed construction would damage Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (renamed from the Atomic Energy Commission) had no authority to license a plant which would intrude on national park lands. At issue was the Department of the Interior's legal authority over the area. On November 8, the Supreme Court denied the petition and construction began in earnest in January 1977.[31]

In 1977, the U.S. Geological Survey began two studies to determine the effects of the NIPSCO construction activity to water quality and dewatering of the National Lakeshore. Joining the Park Service as partners in the study were the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. Issues to be investigated included ash pond seepage, groundwater alteration through plant construction, fly ash disposal, heavy metal accumulations, and effects on flora and fauna. [32] Numerous monitoring stations were placed along the dike which separated the ponds from Cowles Bog.

Based on data from these scientific studies and a request from Congressman Sidney Yates (Democrat—Illinois), Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus conducted a review of the Bailly I controversy. While questioning NIPSCO's site selection, Secretary Andrus decided against asking the NRC to revoke Bailly I's construction permit. He pledged to remain vigilant in monitoring any harmful effects from the construction activity and to seek mitigation through the courts or Congress. In a June 13, 1977, letter to NIPSCO Chairman Dean H. Mitchell, Andrus declared:

We are prepared to seek a halt to construction or oppose the issuance of the requisite operating license if the facility will cause injury or damage to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Though we appreciate the need generally for future energy supplies, we are not bound by the previous decisions of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or the prior Administration. We have a responsibility, which we are and shall continue pursuing, to preserve the integrity of the national lakeshore. [33]

Andrus also informed Mitchell of the recurring seepage onto National Lakeshore lands of approximately one million gallons of water a day from the ash settling basins of the coal—fired Bailly plant. The ash basin seepage flooded a marsh area creating ponds which maintained a constant water level. Andrus stated that the interdunal pond water in the flooded area was "very like that of your ash settling basins." Secretary Andrus continued:

These are unnatural conditions created as a result of seepage from activities outside the park which cannot be tolerated. We believe that NIPSCO has knowingly permitted this untenable condition to persist for a number of years.

The National Park Service has registered three written requests with NIPSCO seeking to have this seepage terminated. It is now time for affirmative action to be taken in halting this condition. I am insisting, therefore, that within the next 60 days your company agree to a firm plan and timetable by which the ash settling basin seepage into the lakeshore will be permanently terminated. [34]

Andrus asked that NIPSCO submit a draft plan and timetable to the Park Service within thirty days. If there was no satisfactory response from NIPSCO, Andrus promised to seek legal action from the Department of Justice.* In conclusion, Andrus disavowed any special working relationship NIPSCO developed during the Ford Administration:

I understand that following a July 30, 1976, meeting between you and former officials of this Department, certain working relationships were established between the National Park Service and NIPSCO and that NIPSCO was assured a "formal" right of appeal to this office from any staff recommendation for the initiation of legal action against the company. These arrangements have not made measurable progress in resolving the seepage problems and have been misconstrued. It is necessary and desirable, therefore, to dissolve any previous understandings reached by the Department, and the National Park Service with NIPSCO as to these arrangements. In the future, representatives of the National Park Service, the Solicitor's Office, and the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks will have the full responsibility and support of this Department in protecting and preserving Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. [35]

*Nat Reed downplayed the significance of the arrangement: "It was a hand-shake agreement. It didn't really have to be an agreement because any decision the Assistant Secretary makes is appealable to the Secretary anyway. They made much to do that I was making decisions with [Director George] Hartzog in relation to Bailly that created new policy without review by the Secretariat. I was the one who said, 'Listen, any decision that I make that you want to appeal, go appeal it to Morton.' Knowing full well that Morton was not going to overturn me on something like that." See Reed interview, 9 March 1987.

Negotiations between NIPSCO and Service representatives on the fly ash seepage controversy continued until September 14, 1976, when the Department of the Interior asked the Justice Department to file an injunction against NIPSCO. Expressing the position of the Department, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Robert L. Herbst declared:

The operation of the power generating facilities and the present construction at the Bailly site are causing an undue and unnecessary adverse impact on the National Park. Engineering solutions which can remedy this situation are available at costs reasonable to the power industry. We think that [NIPSCO], like responsible citizens, should share the responsibility for protecting and preserving those areas set aside as national parks for the use and enjoyment of all the citizens of the United States. We are, in short, simply asking NIPSCO to be a good neighbor and go about t its business in a way that is not harmful to the park. [36]

The Department stated it would oppose Bailly I if pending studies revealed additional negative effects. In addition, Interior requested that it be supplied with a copy of the evacuation plan which detailed how visitors to the national lakeshore would be informed and evacuated in the event of an emergency. Interior wanted the report, which NIPSCO would not be required to submit until the plant was ready to come on—line, as soon as possible in the interest of visitor safety and security. [37]

In his first visit to Indiana Dunes, Director William J. Whalen was impressed with its beauty and uniqueness. In a speech to the Save the Dunes Council, Whalen said the impending lawsuit could be a test case in resolving future threats to other units of the National Park System:

Due to its proximity to one of the world's largest industrial complexes, Indiana Dunes faces serious threats to its integrity and well being. Such threats are not unique to Indiana Dunes, but few other parks in the System have such significant, fragile, natural features so imminently threatened. action to protect the park is indicative of our commitment. A massive and almost unprecedented research effort is being put together at Indiana Dunes to assure that we are able to identify and deal with adverse impacts from activity outside the boundaries. Indiana Dunes may well prove to be a model for such efforts as other parks are threatened in the future. [38]

Buckling under the threat of litigation, NIPSCO signed an agreement with the Service in late February 1978 to seal its fly ash basins within thirty-two months. Drafted by the Department, the agreement, estimated at ten million dollars to implement, provided for a three—stage process to correct the problem. The company agreed to convert to a dry system to handle its fly ash, to install a waste water treatment plant, and to lay down vinyl liners beneath all four of its industrial ponds. [39]

NIPSCO's difficulties with Bailly I were far from over, however. In 1977, construction stopped after NIPSCO discovered it could not reach bedrock upon which the massive concrete plant could rest. Nevertheless, NIPSCO applied for and received Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval to install shorter pilings. The outraged Joint Intervenors filed another lawsuit citing the measure constituted a risky safety violation. Steelworkers were angry that neither NIPSCO nor NRC considered them population centers (more than 25,000 people) even though they numbered over 100,000 and worked at the steel mills in continuous shifts. Because of this, no adequate evacuation plan had been devised for them in the event of an emergency. Bethlehem Steel Company union members were angered by what they derisively termed the "suicide squad," a provision in Bethlehem's evacuation plan for specified workers to stay behind for more than a week in order to cool down the massive coke ovens. Union rank and file wanted no part of it and affirmed its support for the Bailly Alliance. Coupled with the March 28, 1979, nuclear accident at the Three Mile Island reactor in Middle town, Pennsylvania,* duneland tensions rose to peak levels as citizens considered the possibility of similar equipment failures and human error at Bailly I. [40] Litigation and engineering problems with the pilings kept construction at a standstill throughout the remainder of the 1970s.

*The 1979 Three Mile Island (TMI) incident represented the worst commercial nuclear accident in United States history. A series of equipment failures and human error led to a loss of coolant and a partial core meltdown. NRC later reported that TMI came within one hour of a catastrophic meltdown. While some radiation escaped into the atmosphere, health experts determined risks to the population were minimal.

A December 1979, "State of the Parks Survey" summarizing threats included a lengthy narrative on Indiana Dunes which cited noise, air, and water pollution problems. The report stated:

Unless some form of enlightened land use development control can be brought about in the several municipal jurisdictions which border the lakeshore, the trend of residential, commercial, and industrial growth will continue at every point along its tortuous and extensive boundary. More and more of the character of this park will be swallowed from without. Concerns like those associated with the Bailly Nuclear generating facility will increase. These include: 1) aesthetic intrusion; 2) the possible disruption of park hydrology during construction and thereafter; 3) thermal loading into Lake Michigan or the park air shed; 4) some interaction between factors associated with new and existing industrial plants; and 5) possible infringement on park visitor use patterns. Additionally, after the accident at Three Mile Island, it is now more tenable to propose the possibility of harm to park biota and park visitors from minor or catastrophic radiation leaks. [41]

The summary of threats also included ozone levels detected at various times above national air quality standards. Acid rain and sulphur dioxide levels also worked insidiously on park biota. Run—off from an Indiana Toll Road salt storage pile, used in de—icing roads in winter, contaminated lakeshore creeks and ditches and caused scientists to worry about impacts to the delicate ecology of Pinhook Bog. [42]

At the park level, the infant Science Office was feverishly conducting environmental monitoring projects as well as contracting out for various research needs. Superintendent Whitehouse and Chief Scientist Hendrickson worked closely together, constantly feeding new information to the Washington Office. Whitehouse maintained an open door policy, meeting with both Bailly I proponents and opponents—making his own personal anti—Bailly I views known—but leaving policy statements to the Regional Director, Director, and Secretary. [43]

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Last Updated: 07-Oct-2003