by Max Brantley
Kate Althoff, who's worked tirelessly in the cause of preserving the quality of the Lake Maumelle water supply, is one of many unhappy about Central Arkansas Water's decision yesterday to give developer Rick Ferguson the ability to develop lakeview acreage, $1 million and no responsibility to follow a watershed management plan on other acreage he owns.
Her letter is on the jump.
LETTER FROM KATE ALTHOFF
Yesterday was a bad day for Lake Maumelle. The Commissioners of Central Arkansas Water decided to turn the Watershed Management Plan (WMP) into talking points for future compromises with developers. The WMP was designed and intended to be the baseline to achieve a balance between personal property rights and maintaining high water quality. The plan was based on science and stakeholder negotiations. As many know. the cornerstone of stakeholder negotiations is keeping people with competing interest at the table, talking, compromising until you arrive at an agreement. In this case it took 13 months of stakeholder compromising. Additionally it cost $1.2 million of ratepayer money to facilitate the stakeholder work and to gather and analyze the science. So, yesterday, in effect, CAW voted to compromise the compromise
After the WMP was completed, CAW did not have the governing authority to compel anyone to follow it. CAW could not go to the state legislature for help because it was asking something far too progressive for any governing body that would elect someone like Sen. Bob Johnson as a leader. CAW went to Pulaski County Judge Villines and despite the fact that 95% of the population of his county depends on that lake for their drinking water, he said “No, hell no. Oh! Wait a minute. I will help with that part on erosion control during construction. It turns out the feds have set a deadline for us for improvements in that area and you can help me reach that those new standards and pay for it.”
So CAW, still unable to implement the plan, turned to the current profiteer-developer knocking at the door, asked them what he wanted and gave it to him without any requirement that the developer follow the WMP. What is hard to understand is that the ratepayers made it clear they would pay high rates to buy the land in question and a court ruled that CAW could condemn the land.
CAW has just begun to manage the watershed. CAW can go into the watershed and tell the landowners they will be treated with equality, but not with me at their side.
To any young people who are interested in public policy, I suggest that you put all of your energy into making money and lots and lots of it. And if you are successful, then come back into the community and use your big dollars to influence change for the good. I can assure you, that is the only way you will be heard.