Friday, July 12, 2013

DOI rescinds White River designation as "Blueway"

I wrote here last week about the designation of the White River (Missouri and Arkansas) as a National Blueway, but I see now that this designation has now been rescinded by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.  That's according to a story in the July 10, 2013 issue of the Newton County Times.  Most members of the U.S. Congressional delegation are touting the rescission as appropriate in light of the lack of input "from local leaders nor sufficient details as to the private property implications" of the designation.  Read about the withdrawal of the designation here, here and here.  I am unable to find anything about this rescission on the Dept of the Interior website.  However, I did get a kick out Max Brantley's column, "Crackpots prevail:  Feds rescind White River Blueway designation" in the Arkansas Times.  Selected excerpts follow:
Conspiracy theorists led by the paranoid Secure Arkansas group of Jeannie Burlsworth had stirred local opposition on the theory — unsupported by evidence — that the program brought regulation (it brought none) and land seizure (it didn't.)
The consolation is that, according to Brantley, the possible impact of the designation--had it stuck--was de minimis at best.
So it's done. No blueway will darken the doors of Arkansas or Missouri. The best criticism of this program is in the fact that we probably haven't lost much as a result. The head of the Missouri-based Ozark Water Watch, one of the supporters that turned tail and ran in the face of the shrieks from Burlsworth and Co., likened the program to a "gold star" — something that might, MIGHT, get the area higher consideration on federal grants. Can't have any of that either.
In other local government news, the Newton County Quorum Court endorsed the work of the Newton County Resource Council in applying for an Arkansas Highway Dept. grant for $60,000.  The grant would be used to complete repairs and improvements to Round Top park, which was damaged by mudslides in the spring of 2010.  By supporting the grant, the county agrees to be the public entity wth long-term responsibility for operating the park, in the event of the Resource Council's demise.  The park is 140 acres and features six miles of trails.  The story notes that one of the engines of a B-25 that crashed on Round Top Mountain in February, 1948, had been on display at the historic site until it was put in storage after the 2010 landslides.  Sadly, once it was replaced following the trail restoration, the engine was stolen.

At its July meeting, the Quorum Court also passed a resolution supporting a grant application related to  adding technologies, e.g., hardware, software, computer training, to the circuit clerk's office.  The county is eligible for a grant from the Automated Records System Fund managed by the Association of Arkansas Counties and administered by the Automated Records Systems Fund (ARSF) Committee.  The ARSF is designed to assist Class 1 through Class 5 counties (whatever that means) to apply, with the approval of the Quorum Court.

Lastly, Newton County Emergency Management Officer Patty Mills reported to the quorum court at its regular monthly meeting that its grant request had been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Dept. of Homeland Security to help purchase and implement a digital radio system for the county's rural fire departments.  The total cost of the approved project is nearly $400K, with the federal share being about 95% of that.  The grantee's share is just under $20K.  The quorum court passed a resolution that supports all Newton County Rural Fire Departments in their endeavor to secure matching funds for the system.

I note that the Newton County Justices of the Peace, who make up the Quorum Court (the Arkansas version of a Board of Supervisors) are doing a lot of grant-endorsing and grant-applying these days (see another post here).  Beyond that and passing resolutions aimed at expressing their autonomy (see another here), they don't seem to have a lot to do.  Federal-local wrangles, too, seem to be  recurring theme, as discussed here.

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