Senate Appropriations Committee Approve Alexander Amendment to Provide Down Payment on Settlement Instead of Building North Shore Road.
Posted on July 12, 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C.- U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) and U.S. Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC) today said the Senate Appropriations Committee approval of an amendment offered by Alexander could send up to $6 million to Swain County and successfully protect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the Road to Nowhere. Senators Alexander and Dole have objected to the significant environmental and economic costs associated with building the decades-old Road to Nowhere. Today’s decision gives the people of Swain County, North Carolina the compensation they deserve, said the lawmakers. "This is an important first step in fulfilling the commitment the United States made to Swain County in 1943 when the building of Fontana Dam flooded a highway,” Alexander said. “Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee did the right thing in unanimously approving a way to give compensation to the people of Swain County, North Carolina instead of building a destructive road through a wilderness area through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 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.” “I applaud the committee’s approval of this measure to direct funding towards a cash settlement for the residents of Swain County,” said Dole. “The federal government needs to compensate the people of Swain County, and today’s action is a step in the right direction. I look forward to continuing to work with Sen. Alexander and Rep. Shuler to provide the legislative framework for a full cash settlement, which will provide much needed resources for Swain County’s local schools, economic development, and other important services.” "The people of Swain County have waited over 60 years for a resolution to the issue of the North Shore Road. The Senate’s passage of this amendment today is a tremendous step toward that resolution. I applaud the efforts of my colleagues in the Senate and look forward to working closely with them to secure a settlement for Swain County,” said Shuler. In today’s Appropriations Committee hearing, Alexander offered an amendment that would allow unspent money in the FY2001 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to be used for a cash settlement to the people of Swain County, NC. In May, the National Park Service announced its intention to designate the settlement as the Agency Preferred Alternative to building the road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The National Park Service expects to formally publish their endorsement of this alternative in September when it will be followed by a 30-day public comment period. For over two decades, Alexander and others have been fighting against the North Shore Road through the Park. Last March, Alexander and 16 other congressional lawmakers sent a letter to Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne urging him to stop work on the road and provide a cash settlement instead, explaining the road would have cost 75 times the annual roads budget of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The project to build the road was initiated to replace a state highway flooded by construction of Fontana Dam in the late 1940s. Today’s legislation directs the remaining dollars to the people of Swain County as a down payment on the money that they are owed.