Former Indiana Democratic State Representative Scott Pelath has been selected to serve as the new executive director of the Kankakee River Basin Commission (KRBC). Pelath replaces longtime director Jody Melton, who is retiring after nearly forty years.
Pelath joins the KRBC after twenty years of representing portions of La Porte and Porter County in the Indiana House. During that time, KRBC reports he frequently focused on natural resource issues in positions of senior legislative and fiscal leadership, including five years as minority leader. Among his numerous legislative accomplishments was sponsorship of the Great Lakes Water Use Compact, which is now law in every Great Lakes state and Canadian province, and authorship of the current structure of the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission.
“I am elated by the opportunity to forge consensus for the future of the Kankakee River Basin,” said Pelath. “Throughout my years of public service, I always held a particular passion for natural resources and the careful stewardship of our waters.
“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. 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. Through its work, the commission seeks to promote and sustain surface and ground water for agricultural, residential, recreational, and commercial needs. 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.
KRBC Chairman and Newton County Surveyor Chris 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,” said Knochel.
“The KRBC serves eight different 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. We could not be more optimistic about the future.”
The Kankakee River Basin Commission, which was created in 1977, serves the water resource planning needs of eight northwest Indiana counties: Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Marshall, Newton, Porter, Starke, and St. Joseph. Its twenty-four members includes a representative of each county’s commissioners, the eight county surveyors, and a supervisor from each of the basin’s soil and water districts. The Kankakee Basin comprises 1.9 million acres, of which almost 1.6 million acres has been used as cropland.