Is everyone thoroughly confused about the issue of development in the Lake Maumelle watershed? Despite recent thorough reporting in the D-G, some issues remain cloudy.
I think this much is worth noting after some communications with Jim Harvey, the CEO of Central Arkansas Water:
There is not yet a firm proposal that would allow development, however carefully controlled, on the acreage Deltic Timber wants to turn into high-dollar homes on slopes immediately overlooking the water intake at the lake. A plan, based on an outside consultant's study, may be recommended by a citizens' task force, though likely not before fall.
The consultant's study has said low density development on that acreage could be possible with strict controls to guard against runoff, known as best management practices, or BMPs.
But the outside consultant has said, before any development plan is approved in that critical area, there should be a test of BMPs to see if they work. Harvey says the test should be conducted outside of the critical area -- and preferably outside the Lake Maumelle watershed -- in case they don't.
Said Harvey in a letter to the advisory council Monday: "The driving reasoning for a pilot project outside the watershed is that BMPs are what the term implies -- Best Management Practices -- and not assurances."
Harvey's letter also addressed Deltic's recent statements that it has always wanted to work with the water utility.
Harvey's letter noted that he'd written Deltic in October 2004 to request a pilot BMP project. "We did not receive a response to our letter from Deltic Timber," the letter says.
Now, with condemnation near, Deltic is trying to seem more cooperative, mainly as a ploy to stop the condemnation proceeding underway on the acreage overlooking the water intake.
Deltic has contended it can't work with the utility if it no longer owns its property. Of course it can. Indeed, since it owns jillions more acres in the watershed, it would be a show of good faith if it did. A pilot project would demonstrate Deltic's good intentions for all of its land.
Plus, it's simply not true that condemnation would end Deltic's ability to use that land if BMPs do work. The proposed contract for sale of that land clearly allows the utility to return the land to Deltic if it could be demonstrated it wasn't needed to protect the water supply. Don't believe that Deltic has suddenly turned cooperative and the utility is the problem. Deltic wants to do what Deltic wants to do -- develop land (land that is taxed at pennies per acre, despite its million-dollar valuation). The utility's first priority is the water supply.
There, whether you wanted that spinach journalism or not.