A crowd of more than 400 attended the Congressional subcommittee hearing on the Blueway designation of the White River Watershed. The committee hearing was held at the West Plains, Mo., Civic Center Theater Monday afternoon. Testimony was taken from public officials from both Missouri and Arkansas and a public watchdog group. (Hill ’n Holler staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)
By Caroll Lucas
West Plains, Mo. — It was a standing room crowd at the West Plains Civic Center Theater Monday when the first ever Congressional subcommittee hearing was held here on the designation of the White River basin as a part of the National Blueways System.
Blueway as it turned out was just a prettied up and camouflaged resurrection of the last big federal land grab scam, the U.N.-backed Biosphere Reserve that was kicked out of the Ozarks in 1996.
The Water and Power Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources opened a hearing titled “Stopping Federal Land and Water Grabs: Protecting Private Property Rights from Washington D.C. Edicts.”
The subcommittee and a raft of witnesses took aim at the Blueway proposal that characterized itself as promoting cooperation between governmental agencies in the White River watershed basin and accused it of operating in the dark, hiding their real purposes and trying to keep the public and legislators clueless as to the real aims of the program.
To view Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock’s introduction to the session, click HERE.
Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Department of the Interior, Rebecca Wodder had been invited to the hearing but failed to appear. Supposedly in charge of the Blueway program, Wodder has been visibly silent about it. Wodder had been president of American Rivers since 1995 and befored that served The Wilderness Society. She had been nominated by President Obama to be assistant secretary for Fish and, Wildlife, but, due to opposition, that nomination was dropped and she was named a senior advisor.
Before we go into the litany of criticisms of Blueway, let us say that the U.S. Department of the Interior withdrew its designation of the White River Watershed, basically the Ozarks, on July 3 after public uproar over its intended violation of private property rights was voiced. The designation had been made in January. According to Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) the Blueway program is in a “pause” mode.
McClintock told the Hill ’n Holler Review that the only way to secure the Ozarks from the Blueway land grab project is to change administrations. “Right now we’re fighting a rear guard action,” he noted.
Waxing historical, McClintock discussed the land grab for the crown in early England under the Plantagenets rule when a third of the land belonged to the crown as “royal forests: until the Magna Carta came along in 1215. This “forest” land, he said, was off limits to the common man.
Several congressional and state legislators from Missouri and Arkansas attacked Blueway but some of the best informed witnesses were from community organizations. A resolution adopted by Boone County in Arkansas was also entered into the record and read to the crowd by JP Ralph Guynn of Harrison, Ark. The resolution, which opposed inclusion of Boone County in the Blueway designation, ended by saying “we do not need Blueway to tell us how much water we can put in our bathtubs!”
State Rep. Sonya Anderson of the 131st Legislative District of Springfield, Mo., said 21 counties in Missouri and 3l in Arkansas would be affected by the White River Watershed and described the program as a “direct threat to our property rights.” Anderson accused the Blueway proponents of acting deceitfully. She said the public deserved to know all the facts but that the facts had not been forthcoming. Rep. Anderson said Blueway was a “danger to our rights” and concluded that the program should be opposed.
Jerry King of Summersville, Mo., who represents a community rights organization — Voice of the Ozarks — described the Blueway program as a severe overreach by a government agency. Claiming to represent the public in the Ozarks King said they were not asked for input, so how can this be deemed a community driven project, he asked. Even though the Ozarks designation has been rescinded, King said, they will regroup under a new name and promote their hidden agenda.
King said people live in fear of when the government will grab their land. He said there should be punitive measures when government bureaucracies exceed their powers.
Missouri State Representative Shawn Rhoads of the 154th District representing Howell County said the government does not think we’re smart enough to know what’s best for our land. Generations of families have been taking care of the land and fishing and floating the rivers. “Forgive me if I don’t believe the Obama administration,” Rhoads added. He made reference to the national move to limit access points on the rivers and close horse trails. Rhoads said Blueway had to be fought over private property rights.
Arkansas State Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain View District 18 described the Blueway project as an environmental Fantasy Vision created in the dark of night with a father knows best attitude. Irvin said she was working hard to protect the State of Arkansas and the property owners who she said were the number one stakeholders in the situation.
Others offering similar testimony were state representatives from Yellville, Ark., and Houston, Mo., as well as a property owner from Van Buren, Mo.
Despite the crowd gathered to attend the hearing, they were not allowed to comment or enter testimony. After the hearing adjourned a member of the audience brought this point up and was told to send comments to Kiel Weaver, staff director of the subcommittee on water and power, via E-mail to email@example.com.
©2013 Hill ’n Holler Review
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A map showing rivers and lakes in the White River Watershed Basin recently designated by the Department of the Interior’s hush hush Blueway project. Some of these rivers include the Current River, the Eleven Point River, Black River, James River, Beaver Lake, Lake Norfork, Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, Greers Ferry and more in the States of Arkansas and Missouri — taking in the Ozarks region originally targeted by the Biosphere Reserve federal land grab project in 1996. The Blueway designation was rescinded on July 3.