Wabash Riverkeeper


Rae Schnapp
[email protected]

The Wabash River is the longest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi. Its headwaters lay in the farm fields of western Ohio. From there it flows 510 miles to the Ohio River. There is one dam at Huntington Reservoir, just south of Fort Wayne, IN, and many of the tributaries are dammed, but the main branch of the Wabash mainstem flows freely for 411 miles from Huntington to its confluence with the Ohio River.The river depth can vary tremendously, ranging from 2.2 ft to 32.2 ft. at its confluence with the Ohio River. The Wabash, and especially its tributaries are popular for recreational swimming and fishing. There is no significant human use of Wabash River water directly as a source of drinking water, however groundwater is extensively used as a supply of drinking water throughout the basin. The sand and gravel outwash of ancient glaciers created productive aquifers in much of the region and buried Teays River valley aquifer in the region. Underground water flow contributes significantly to the base flow of the Wabash and most of its tributary streams. Groundwater is used very extensively for human drinking water supply throughout the basin in both rural and urban areas. The population of the Wabash basin was estimated at 3,683,810 in 1990, with 1,423,300 people relying on underground water supplies from public or private domestic wells. Many municipal wells are located just a few feet from the river in the sand and gravel aquifers created by melt waters of the glaciers that once covered parts of the state. The lower portion of the Wabash basin contains cavernous limestone bedrock, which makes for some unusual connections between ground water and surface water. The area is noted for sinkholes, “disappearing rivers,” springs and seeps.

Rae became the Wabash Riverkeeper in 2003 after writing a proposal (on behalf of the Hoosier Environmental Council) that was accepted by the Waterkeeper Alliance. In 2008, the Hoosier Environmental Council changed direction to focus on policy. In 2010, they made the decision to give up the Wabash Riverkeeper license. With this proposal, we would like to establish the Wabash Riverkeeper as an independent organization. Rae earned her Ph.D. from the School of Agriculture at Purdue University and served as head of the biotechnology lab at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria. Her research was part of an international collaboration on improving insect resistance in cowpea (black-eyed pea, an important protein source in Africa). She began working at the Hoosier Environmental Council, serving as the Water Policy Director and later as Wabash Riverkeeper, with a special emphasis on agricultural impacts on water quality. One of her first achievements at the Hoosier Environmental Council was securing a $300,000 from the Kellogg Foundation and implementing a three-year project to build watershed awareness through 12 watershed workshops around the state. She also organized dozens of watershed workshops, and wrote a comprehensive Watershed Restoration Toolkit addressing septic systems, stormwater runoff, household chemicals and agricultural practices. Rae has a strong technical background in policies and practices related to environmental protection and a working knowledge of the Wabash River and its tributaries. She made top marks in an EPA certification course on hydrogeology and served for several years as the governor’s environmental representative on the Indiana Groundwater Task Force. She also completed a comprehensive watershed restoration and management plan for the Bean Blossom Creek and Lake Lemon through a grant ($30,000) from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.


632 Main Street
Lafayette, Indiana 47901