Saturday, May 26, 2007

Good News About The Road To Nowhere?

The Charlotte Observer is putting a fork in the Road to Nowhere. In an article they report that the Park Service has finally given up after over 60 years of trying to build this road in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I hope it is true, but this sucker has been tougher to kill than a snapping turtle.

If you fish or visit the GSMNP, you probably know about this boondoggle. If not, here is some background. During World War II, the federal government built a big dam and made Fontana Lake so that a nearby Alcoa plant would have cheap electricity to make stuff for the war effort. As a result, many families lost their land and were cut off from cemetaries that were on land that became part of the park. The government promised to build a road so they could drive to the graveyards as soon as the war was over. Things moved slowly but the work started in the 1950s and part of the road was completed but work stopped in the 1970s when engineering problems halted work.

Since then the Federal government has looked at many options, including a settlement with the county (to compensate them for flooded tax base), as well as finishing the road. Most of the folks in the region thought that a big check that could be used for schools, etc. was preferable to a road that doesn't go anywhere, but a few powerful politicians, with ties to the road construction business stopped any settlment for years.

Building the road would be terrible for the park. Not only would it clear some of the best wilderness areas in the park, but it would increase acid leaching into severely threatened native brook trout habitat.

Opponents of the road got some support when the NC General Assembly passed some environmental regulations to protect the stream and even more when Heath Shuler (yes, the same Heath Shuler on whom my beloved Redskins wasted a first round draft pick only to find out that he can't play football) beat Charles Taylor, the king of road building pork in Western NC in the last congressional elections.

Now, with Taylor gone--and with him the threat of the Park Service losing all its budget if they supported cancelling the road--the NPS has decided that they will drop plans to build the road and pursue a settlement.

This is very good news for brook trout, but it is not dead yet. There will be another study and comment period, but it does look like the road supporters are going to have a very tough time winning, much like the Redskins when Shuler was QB.

I am keeping my fingers crossed. If this sucker dies, look for Teh Wind Knot to form a committee to draft Norv Turner for president.


Tom Chandler said...

Good news. Would this road end up in the Hazel Creek drainage?

If so, I hope they drop the hammer on this idea right now.

Nowhere is it written there's a constitutional right to go everywhere in this country without dragging your fat ass out of your car seat...

Teh Wind Knot said...

The road is proposed to cross Hazel Creek, Forney Creek and others that really don't need runoff from a road or more acidification.