Pelath heading for the river

December 29, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY —During his 20 years in the Indiana House of Representatives, Scott Pelath’s focus was often on natural resource issues, including sponsoring the Great Lakes Water Use Compact and authoring the current structure of the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

Now he can sharpen that focus even more. Pelath this week was named the new executive director of the Kankakee River Basin Commission, which serves water resource planning needs of eight counties.

Pelath will replace Jody Melton, who is retiring after nearly 40 years of heading the KRBC as the only executive director of the agency, created in 1977.

“I am elated by the opportunity to forge consensus for the future of the Kankakee River Basin,” Pelath said. “Throughout my years of public service, I always held a particular passion for natural resources and the careful stewardship of our waters.”

He said the river basin, which comprises 1.9 million acres, of which almost 1.6 million acres has been used as cropland, is much more important than many people realize.

“Our future economic prosperity, our food supply, and our health and quality of life depend on careful water resource planning and a shared sense of purpose,” he said. “This unique challenge of improving our Northern Indiana region is one I find deeply invigorating, and I cannot thank the KRBC enough for their confidence.”

The KRBC coordinates the water resources and water-related land resources of the basin through flood control projects, drainage maintenance, and initiatives to enhance the environment for both conservation and recreational development, according to chairman and Newton County Surveyor Chris Knochel

Through its work, the commission seeks to promote and sustain surface and ground water for agricultural, residential, recreational, and commercial needs, he said. The KRBC’s long-term goals directly pertain to overall water quality, fishery restoration, wetlands and aquatic habitats, and the future availability of the region’s water supply.

Knochel said the commission looked for a new director with a history of working with diverse stakeholders, significant public policy experience, and proven communication leadership.

“As impossible as it is to replace Jody Melton’s decades of outstanding service, we believe Scott’s own unique skill sets will serve our goals well,” Knochel said.

“The KRBC serves eight counties, their local governments, and stakeholders ranging from farmers, businesses, homeowners and conservationists.

“Just about every citizen has an interest in improving our water, and it takes someone like Scott to be able to hear everyone while keeping an eye on the greater good,” Knochel said. “We could not be more optimistic about the future.”

The commission was created in 1977, and represents La Porte, Porter, Starke, St. Joseph, Jasper, Lake, Marshall and Newton counties. Its 24 members includes three from each county – a representative of the county commissioners, the county surveyors, and a supervisor from the soil and water districts.

— From staff reports

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