Skip to comments.Shuler's(D) election means end of quest to finish 'Road to Nowhere'
Posted on 11/18/2006 5:43:33 PM PST by Dane
Shuler's election means end of quest to finish 'Road to Nowhere'
The Associated Press CHARLOTTE, N.C.
After an election that removed its chief backer from the halls of Congress, the Road to Nowhere may once and for all be going nowhere.
Heath Shuler, an incoming Democratic congressman who will represent far western North Carolina, opposes spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build the road through an undeveloped section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The road would be a replacement for a state highway flooded by construction of Fontana Dam in the 1940s.
And that likely means the end of a project that was backed by Rep. Charles Taylor, the powerful Republican incumbent Shuler ousted earlier this month.
"We've said from the very beginning that we think the road has the appropriate name," Shuler told The Associated Press. "We don't need to build that road. The appropriation to build that road is now a dead issue."
The issue is near to Shuler's heart. He grew up in Bryson City, at the eastern end of the planned road, which would to follow the north shore of Fontana Lake. A 1943 agreement between North Carolina and the federal government included a promise to build it, provided Congress appropriated the money.
Only seven of 42 miles were completed before high costs and environmental concerns halted construction in 1972. Supporters of the road have continued to lobby for its completion, saying it would give residents forced out by construction of the dam access to family cemeteries and homesteads. The National Park Service now pays to transport those people across Fontana Lake by boat for their annual cemetery decoration days.
"Heath Shuler should be ashamed of himself," said Linda Hogue, a leader in the North Shore Road Association and an organizer of the boat trips. Hogue said she hopes a National Park Service study of whether to finish the road will continue despite Shuler's opposition.
"I hope Mr. Shuler is not as powerful as he thinks he is," she said. "I hope that someone in Washington can hold the line. It's only fair to let the process play out."
Taylor, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, revived conversation about the road in 2000, when he included $16 million to resume construction in the federal budget. That kicked off a lengthy study conducted by the National Park Service, which has included multiple public hearings and issued a draft environmental impact report early this year.
The report identified five possible alternatives for resolving the long-running debate, including doing no further work on the road and making a $52 million payment to Swain County to buyout the 1943 agreement; and extending the road to the dam _ a project that comes with a projected price tag of some $600 million.
In a break from tradition, the park service did not identify a "preferred alternative" in its draft report; many observers have speculated that the agency was waiting to see whether Taylor would win his re-election fight with Shuler. The park service has called the settlement with Swain County the "environmentally preferred" alternative.
Bob Miller, a spokesman for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said the final decision about what alternative to recommend is now in the hands of new Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and new National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar. Both, he said, "must be brought up to speed with a lot of issues across the country. So we do not know when they'll render a decision."
Even if the park service came down in favor of building the road, Congress would have to appropriate money for construction. And that seems unlikely with Shuler _ and not Taylor _ representing the district.
Shuler said he intends to push for the settlement _ an option that has been endorsed by the Swain County board of commissioners, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and the Washington-based taxpayer watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Alexander has called completion of the road _ which would cross one of the largest roadless tracts of land in the eastern United States _ a "terrible idea." Easley has said almost "any construction activity on the north shore of Fontana Lake threatens the delicate balance of streams, woodlands and wetlands that we in North Carolina are working diligently to protect and preserve."
Shuler, a former NFL quarterback who led Swain County High School to three state titles in the late 1980s, said during his campaign that he often went to a quiet spot near where the road dead-ends to mull major life decisions. It was there that he decided to attend college at the University of Tennessee and to propose to his wife Nikol.
Shuler said he would like to see money spent to improve the pontoon boat service that takes families across Fontana Lake to the hard-to-reach family cemeteries.
"I sympathize, and my heart goes out to the people that have their families out there," he said. "We need to do a much better job of transportation into Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the people that have cemeteries to visit. We need a fund to make it more accessible."
David Monteith, a Swain County commissioner who supports finishing the road, said Shuler's action on the issue will determine whether he lives up to a campaign promise to bring "mountain values" back to Washington.
"We have a legal binding contract signed by the federal government to fulfill that road," Monteith said. "Once Heath Shuler takes the oath of office, he's got no other choice _ if he's going to have any integrity or mountain values or whatever _ but to honor this contract. If he does not, his mountain values have run out the door."
So to reiterate because the 'right thing' wasn't done over 30 years ago, Republicans should 'fix' the mistake. Because that's what limited government is all about isn't it? Building a road for a very small group of people that already have a fix in place..
Your state? Really so I don't live in NC, I've never been to Fontana Dam, or hiked the Nantahala never went to the endless forest service hearings. Or talked to the forest service employees to get their take on it?
Oh well there you have it. Talking to government employees and listening to government hearings. That's different that is. I'm sorry I was wrong. Let's just tear up more of the forest because we've got to have that road. If you have hiked or traveled part of the Nantahala, I suggest you take a quick trip up to Cherokee and then across 441 then. Because if that road is built that's what this area will look like in 20-30 years. And I for one do not want that.
Shuler hasn't lived in WNC for years, he lived in Knoxville, were he has his real estate business
Never said he had. But he did grow up in the shadow of that road so I'd say his take is just as important.
I live in WNC, I know some of those families whose land got submerged to build that dam.
And I very well could be related to some of them. So what? Should I petition the government because of some promise 70 years ago, they should build a road to my great-great-great-grandfather's gravesite? Or great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather's gravesite? Because they're up there. I can't get to them very easily but I'm sure some politician made some promise to my ancestors too at some point during the TVA years
The TVA was a mistake. All of Roosevelt's actions were a mistake. I just don't think we need to compound that mistake by destroying even more land. Both Swain County and Bryson City have accepted the terms of $52 million in 2003. Accept it for a tenth of the supposed cost for building the road and move on
Oh well anyway, I guess the people who's land was taken away by FDR should have to be subjected to your slowboat solution after a promise of a road was broken by heath shuler, as you get in your car and drive to get your essentials of life, akin to al gore getting in a SUV after a speech about the dangers of the internal combustible engine.
A pontoon boat loaded with descendants of Samuel and Clarissa Jones Cable makes it's way across a section of Fontana Lake, near Robbinsville, N.C., May 18, 2003. For almost 60 years, a boat ride or a backwoods trek have been the only way to reach family cemeteries and homeplaces cut off when the Tennessee Valley Authority finished Fontana Dam in 1944. Democrat Heath Shuler, who beat longtime GOP Rep. Charles Taylor in the Nov. 7, 2006, election, says he's opposed to spending hundreds of millions of federal dollars to build a road through one of the largest undeveloped tracts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to replace a state highway flooded by the construction of a dam. (AP Photo/Alan Marler, File)
Well, I was talking about the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness Area not a rest stop. It's in the Appalachian mountains and has one of the last stands of old growth forest in the Eastern U.S.
Why do you hate separation of powers?
Nothing. And why do you hate someone such as me bringing up that a promise wasn't kept, and pointing out a fact that someone who showers himself in FDR populism(heath shuler) is breaking the FDR promise.
Ah so that's what they call that nonsense between Cherokee and Pigeon Forge. Destruction of an entire landscape so tourists have a quicker pass between Dollywood and the casino in Cherokee. Have you been there? Have you seen what it's done over the years? Of course you haven't but that's never stopped 'conservatives' from blathering on about something they know nothing of. padre35 may agree with you but if that poster has lived in WNC for long even they've seen what's happening. Never mind it's killed off a lot of the old forests in the area. Progress!!! (And there are several ways over the mountains I-40, the new I-26 extension, etc.). Why stop at just one road Dane? Why don't we just asphalt the whole damn park? Who needs trees? I don't need to see that area of the state as my ancestors did. And neither does anyone else to you apparently.
And it's only going to cost an estimated $600 million. Hey, what's money? What's limited government? That's some more old thinking we need to get rid of. Your only disagreement with this is that a Democrat is against it, so by definition being a good Republican you must be for it.
I guess the people who's land was taken away by FDR should have to be subjected to your slowboat solution after a promise of a road was broken by heath shuler
In 2003 Swain County Commissioners and Bryson City Town Council signed off for the $52 million to drop the issue. But yet, being a good 'conservative' you're for wasting over $600 million for a road that by your own picture is going to pander to a few boatloads of folks.
Yes to reiterate, the local government, elected by the people that ride that boat every year, voted to accept $52 million to drop the matter. And a Democrat is against wasting $600 million to build an unneeded road. But because a Republican is for wasting at least $600 million, we should needlessly destroy the landscape. All over an issue you know nothing about.
Roads aren't evil, but useless roads aren't necessarily good either. BTW, where's the post office at the end of this road you're for? Oh that's right there probably wouldn't be one...
Huh did FDR(heath shuler's guru) promise a road to the families displaced or hush money to current politicians in Swain county.
He promised a road.
So a promise that hasn't been fulfilled by ANY president or Congress in 63 years was "broken" by Heath Shuler, who hasn't even taken office yet. That's an interesting theory.
"I think I shall never see, a poem as lovely as....." and all that.
Not comparable. Mine is in a place where people live and work. The highways run between towns and facilitate commerce. Access to family cemeteries is a pretty weak justification for a $600 million road.
The original road to nowhere went to Ohio. It started out paved, was dirt farther on, was a trail farther on, and ended running up a tree.
Then that must be one big honkin' pontoon boat they're using.
I believe the community was written off when the dam was built prior to WW2.
Boy, if you think Swain County has a beef, you should talk to the Indians.
One of the most beautiful places on earth, IMO.
If you can find one.
"I knew that. I saw the map, though I didn't know it was old growth, and I've never been there."
The govt. bought the land from a gentleman who HATED logging companies and would never let them on his property. I've been there many times and have pictures of me and three of my friends trying to encircle a Poplar tree with our arms and not making it. I can only imagine what this country looked like before it was logged off.
On a side note, I took a friend who had never been camping before up there and the first day he finds a freaking quartz arrowhead that was just beautiful. I'm still kicking myself.
My old stomping grounds.