We at the Army Corps of Engineers take our regulatory responsibilities for wetlands, streams and other waters of the U.S. very seriously. As such, we hope the following clarifying information regarding your July 7 article on the Shoppes at North Hills proposal will be of interest to your readers. Though the article quoted me, I was not interviewed and this was not made clear in the article.
The Corps is neither for nor against private development projects. The Corps’ involvement is based on Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and on the National Environmental Policy Act which require significant projects to have public review and to consider any loss of environmental functions and values for avoidance, minimization and mitigation. We carefully accomplished these tasks resulting in a permit that is heavily conditioned in how work is to be accomplished and in the mitigation to be provided.
Our work was much more thorough than the article suggested. While there was no public hearing, the law requires none. However, we did conduct an extensive public interest review including a public comment period and coordination with more than a dozen agencies. We received only five letters from other interested parties. We went beyond the legal requirement, inviting and meeting with them to discuss their concerns and to assure that all voices were heard. We also remained open to news coverage throughout the process. Our decisions were based on law and this review, and were not due to any political pressure.
The article pointed out that urban wetlands have vital roles. We agree. This is why the permit conditions include restoring 100 percent of lost flood storage. The loss of 34.3 acres of wetlands will be mitigated by the developers preserving, creating, enhancing and restoring 109.6 acres of wetlands onsite and setting aside additional acres elsewhere. We imposed several other conditions to protect the aquatic environment during and after construction, to include holding forfeit a large performance bond should the developers fail to do so.
Water resources were the primary concern, but we also considered traffic and other consequences of the proposed project. We received formal assurances from the city of North Little Rock. We reviewed a report from Metroplan that concluded that potential impact to the interstates and to local streets would be manageable with the roadway improvements detailed by the city. After receiving this report, we held discussions with Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and Federal Highway Administration officials. They did not object to the permit.
For more information about our permit program, please visit our website at www.swl.usace.army.mil and click “Regulatory Permits.”
Col. Wally Z. Walters
When I read Warwick Sabin’s column “Dependence Day,” I thought the United States was engaged in war with China, because he even used “enemy” to describe China.
His essay is very disappointing and brings discord to the Arkansas Times’ long-time reputation as a true liberal newspaper. Certainly, Mr. Sabin doesn’t seem to know what “liberal” really means. He criticized the foreign policy and economy of the United States, but he doesn’t seem to know much about these issues. The independence he pursues is basically isolationism, which has already been proven extremely dangerous for America. That’s one reason why Kerry couldn’t win the 2004 presidential campaign. He cried out for the same things Mr. Sabin wants now. After World War I, America wanted to avoid world affairs and sought isolationism to protect herself. That might have been the biggest reason for 1929’s stock market crash. That’s why President Truman and General Marshall wanted to help war-ridden Europe after World War II. Helping Europe and stabilizing the world have given America more than a half-century’s growth. Now the United States is facing another challenge: to help the Third World. The best way, maybe the only way, to eradicate terrorism is to enrich the life of people in those poor countries. Isolation will only bring more difficulties for the United States. Openness will bring peace, mutual respect and growth.
Re your July 7 Insider on possible political strategies in 2006: I fear that the choice of Republicans to get a measure on the ballot that would outlaw adoption or foster parenting by same-sex couples is more than just a jab at their Democratic opponents.
It is the same tactic George W. Bush’s people used in the last general election. A gay-bashing issue on the ballot brings out the voters who might not be motivated to vote otherwise. Republicans made it a point to get anti-gay-marriage acts on the ballot in crucial states in the 2004 election and it worked. They have been rewarded and they will do it again, this time using the adoption or foster parenting approach.
Somehow I don’t see an increase in minimum wage — a strategy considered by Democrats — bringing forth the same righteous indignation. People who don’t understand and therefore fear and therefore hate gay people do so with a religious fervor beyond anything that offering a helping hand to the working poor might generate.
Lynn Packham Larson
Noel Oman of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on plans underway at the Arkansas freeway department to raise the license fee for electric cars to what a gas-powered car pays in fuel taxes, maybe $180 a year. Fair? They say yes; I'm not so sure.
As a citizen, I don't get to choose not to pay taxes because I don't like what the Arkansas state government is spending state and federal money on, such as paying a Chinese company, Sun Paper, approximately $1 billion to build a paper mill in Clark County.
Before the JFK assassination and the dawn of conspiracy theories, we trusted our government to tell us what was what. Ike might hold back a few facts in the interest of national security, but he would never flat-out lie to us.