Park Service selects monetary settlement on ‘Road to Nowhere’

From press reports

On Dec. 28, Paul Anderson, the Acting Southeast Regional Director of the National Park Service, signed a Record of Decision (ROD) that officially calls for a monetary settlement to Swain County, N.C., as the conclusion to the Environmental Impact Statement process at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The decision clears the way for a new agreement to be crafted between the U.S. Department of Interior and the other three parties to a 1943 agreement which called for the construction of a road on the North Shore of Fontana Lake as a replacement for an earlier road that was flooded by the lake during WWII.

In backing the monetary settlement to Swain County, the National Park Service is hoping to put to rest a controversial 34-mile-long road through Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the north shore of Fontana Lake. Construction of the unfinished road from Bryson City to Fontana Dam was halted in 1972 because of environmental concerns and high costs, but the obligation to Swain County remained.

Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said, “We anticipate scheduling a meeting early in the new year between a representative of the Secretary Interior and representatives of the Swain County Commission, North Carolina Governor Easley, and the Tennessee Valley Authority to develop a new document that will replace the 1943 Agreement. In anticipation of negotiations towards a new agreement and a monetary settlement, Rep. Heath Shuler (NC) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) were successful in including $6 million in the 2008 DOI budget which was signed on Dec. 26 to be available as an initial payment to Swain County.”

Ditmanson continued, “We sincerely appreciate the involvement of the public as well as local and national government officials throughout the EIS process that has allowed us to reach a solution that will both compensate Swain County and protect the resources of the Park.”

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