Court resurrects Blueway to vote against it

Requests Gov. Beebe and all state agencies to withdraw support

Disowned by three state agencies, the U.S. Interior Department’s Blueway designation for the White River was in the spotlight again Tuesday as the Baxter County Quorum Court made clear its opposition to the beleaguered program.

The court voted 9 to 2 in favor of a resolution requesting Gov. Mike Beebe and all state agencies that had previously supported the Blueway designation to withdraw support and to otherwise use official powers to opt out of the Blueway designation — a part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoor Initiative.

The resolution as first presented to the court did not contain language that overtly stated opposition to the Blueways program. The ordinance was amended to include exact language from an alternative ordinance presented by Dist. 7 Justice of the Peace Nelda Speaks.

The language to amend was presented by motion from JP Dist. 1 Gary Smith.

Justices of the Peace Leon Alexander (Dist. 11) and Kevin Bodenhamer (Dist. 8) opposed the amended ordinance.

Alexander told the court the harsh language of the resolution is a “slap” to Blueway supporters, the Interior Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at a time when the White River area economy needs cooperation from agencies for long term funding and maintenance of the Norfork and Greers Ferry trout hatcheries.

After several weeks of controversy about the national Blueways program, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas Waterways Commission agreed that landowner apprehension about the program could hinder ongoing state-driven conservation work and withdrew support for the program.

The designation of the White River and its watershed as a National Blueway would have brought together dozens of nature advocacy groups and state and federal agencies under the umbrella of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

During a meeting Wednesday in Little Rock with the Arkansas Senate and House Interim Committees on City, County, and Local Affairs, the three agencies asked that the designation be revoked.

Smith and JP Dist. 3 Bill Lucas, along with Speaks and JP Dist. 6 Gary Tennison, were vocal about the lopsided public opposition to the Blueways program.

Lucas asked that the resolution contain language that conveyed the court’s absolute opposition to the program.

In other business the court adopted five appropriation ordinances including two appropriating sums not spent during 2012 totaling about $22,000 for expenditure this year.

The court also adopted a resolution appointing Palmer Byrne to the Baxter County Equalization Board.

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