U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander said a National Park Service announcement “should put an end once and for all” to the controversial $600 million “Road to Nowhere” through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The National Park Service today announced plans to issue a final Environmental Impact Statement on the unfinished road project – begun in the 1940s in the Swain County, NC area of the Park – that will call for a cash settlement to the county instead of the road. The National Park Service expects to formally publish the alternative in September when it will be followed by a 30-day public comment period.
“This should end to the decades-long debate on building the road and start the process of fairly compensating the people of Swain County,” said Alexander, who testified against the road to Congress in 1985 while governor of Tennessee “This road has no place in one of the largest pristine wilderness area left in the eastern United States. This is the right solution for the taxpayers of America, the right solution for the people of Swain County and the right solution for those who love the Great Smoky Mountains.”
Last March, Alexander and 16 other congressional lawmakers sent a letter to Interior Department Secretary Dick Kempthorne urging him to stop work on the road and provide a cash settlement. The road would have cost 75 times the annual roads budget of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Alexander said.
Once the Interior Department releases the final Environmental Impact Statement, Alexander said the next step would be to give Swain Count the nearly $7 million left over from the ongoing Environmental Impact Study on the project. The project was initiated to replace a state highway flooded by construction of Fontana Dam in the late 1940s.
“As soon as that’s done, we in Congress will introduce legislation to reprogram the remaining dollars to the people of Swain County as a down payment on the money that they are owed,” Alexander said. “This dispute has been going on long enough.”
The National Park Service selected this alternative solution after evaluating the nearly 76,000 public comments on the road’s impact.
A Copy of the original letter is attached.
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