EDITORIAL: Another call to action on SWEPCO

Thursday, December 12, 2013
Pictured are all the proposed routes for SWEPCO's new power line. Route 33 is the preferred route.

A few days ago, we received an email from Doug Stowe of Save The Ozarks entitled "CALL TO ACTION!"

We'd like to share his call to action and implore all the residents in the Eureka Springs area to take heed.

Stowe writes: "In our struggle against SWEPCO's unwarranted and destructive power line, it seems that Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act is our best friend. It protects valuable historic properties from wanton destruction by governmental agencies or by corporations if what they plan to do requires permits to cross government lands or waterways. It seems that if the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers does its job properly, it must be in compliance with Section 106, and cannot, except in the most dire necessity with no reasonable alternatives, allow (SWEPCO's new) power line to be built where it would damage the Trail of Tears or imperil the future of the National Battlefield Park at Pea Ridge.

"The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation asks that where there are concerns, citizens should contact government agencies and ask that Section 106 be enforced."

Stowe calls for area residents to contact Jason V. Gramlich at the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers immediately, via email at Jason.V.Gramlich@usace.army.mil.

He continues:

"Ask the status of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer's review of SWEPCO's Shipes Road to Kings River project and insist that, if the Corp of Engineers has not done a Section 106 review, it must begin that review now. Then ask that the SWEPCO project not be allowed. Insist that it is not needed.

"Remind them that it would be overly destructive of our natural environment, and that under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, it should not be allowed to damage the Trail of Tears or the National Military Park at Pea Ridge or the rest of Northwest Arkansas."

It seems that Stowe's arguments are backed up by the National Park Service, which early this month sent a letter to the Arkansas Public Service Commission making very similar demands. We can see why after reading the letter.

"We would strenuously disagree with the staff findings of the APSC" when those findings say that "NPS concerns have been addressed by SWEPCO," the National Park Service writes. Their concerns have not been satisfied in any way, continues NPS Regional Director Michael Reynolds in his letter dated Dec. 3.

"As we described in our letters of May 5 and Aug. 28, 2013, the NPS is very concerned that the proposed Route 33 would unacceptably impact Pea Ridge National Military Park, important battlefield lands outside the park, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, and other historic properties. The APSC staff Findings fail to address our concerns.

"The Findings simply state: 'The National Park Service expressed concerns regarding the impacts to Pea Ridge National Military Park.' This vague comment fails to mention any of our specific concerns and dramatically differs from the longer and more substantive paragraphs the APSC staff provided to address the issues raised by other state and federal agencies," the NPS letter says.

The proposed Route 33 would "seriously impact park scenery and cross unprotected battlefield lands outside the park that the NPS has identified for a potential boundary adjustment" (i.e., future inclusion as part of the NPS-owned and -managed land). "We also mentioned (in our previous letters) that all six routes cross the National Trail of Tears.

The NPS letter continues that the Park Service is "deeply troubled" that the consultation statutorily required under Section 106 has not been undertaken. That consultation is required to occur between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the parties proposing to allow and/or build the new power line. "Accordingly, Section 106 consultation should be undertaken immediately and before any decision is made by the APSC regarding the selection of" or approval of any route for a new power line.

The NPS letter says officials there worry that the lack of a Section 106 consultation, combined with the insufficiency of SWEPCO's environmental impact study, fails to provide the APSC with a reasonable baseline of information for the SWEPCO project's impacts on historic properties, especially from Route 33.

The NPS letter calls on APSC to hold off on its decision until it has all the pertinent information.

One would think the APSC would reasonably agree to this, but just in case they're on the fence, it's time once again to make our voices heard.

Email the Army Corps of Engineers as the Park Service requests, and we also encourage you to send a letter similar to theirs to the APSC via the Public Comment page at www.APSCservices.info/publiccomment.asp. Select Docket # 13-041-U.

And, as we continue to fight the SWEPCO power-line proposal, may luck -- and justice -- be on our side.