The fight for Lake Maumelle | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The fight for Lake Maumelle

Posted By on Wed, Feb 7, 2007 at 1:10 PM

Barry Haas, who's been fighting the good fight for a better environment in these parts for years, isn't happy. Jim McKenzie, the director of Metroplan, the council of local governments (you pay him, in other words), wouldn't let Haas and other environmentally friendly types attend a negotiation session between Central Arkansas Water and developers who hope to build on land overlooking Lake Maumelle (and thus present some risk to water quality.)

His report on the event is on the jump, reprinted with his permission. Jim is invited to send in a response.

UPDATE: Kate Althoff, another tireless lake defender, has added comments on the jump as well.

LETTER FROM BARRY HAAS

At 9:00 a.m. this morning I tried to attend a meeting at Central 
Arkansas Water (CAW).  I had learned about the meeting from Kate 
Althoff of Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed (CPMW) earlier this 
week.  When CPMW met, we decided one or more of our group should 
attend this morning's meeting as observers, knowing we would not be 
allowed to participate but only to observe.  As you know Kate is the 
primary representative for CPMW on the Policy Advisory Council (PAC) 
working to develop (hopefully) a comprehensive watershed management 
plan for Lake Maumelle.  I serve as CPMW's alternate representative, 
and as such attended PAC meetings beginning in the fall of 2005 going 
through December 2006.

This morning's meeting had Jim McKenzie of Metroplan, Jim Harvey, 
Bruno Kirsch and attorney Bruce McMath for CAW, attorney Chuck 
Nestrud representing Deltic Timber, Rick Ferguson and his attorney 
Hal Kemp, and Tim Daters plus his partner ?? White of White-Daters 
Engineers representing whom I do not know (although I know they are 
Deltic's engineering firm).  Pat Dicker, Pulaski Co. JP, her husband 
Herb Dicker, a neighborhood group leader, and I attended this morning 
and planned to listen to the discussion,  Pat and Herb Dicker are 
also both members of the PAC.  I understood this morning's topic 
would be the proposed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) that 
Ferguson and Deltic have proposed signing with CAW.  The MOUs are 
contracts that would govern how those entities would be allowed to 
develop their property in the Lake Maumelle watershed, independent of 
any watershed management plan that might be adopted by the CAW Board.

Anyway, before the meeting began Jim McKenzie came over and told the 
Dickers and me we could not stay and listen.  Jim described the 
meeting as a 'negotiation' or somesuch and said it was not a public 
meeting, not subject to FOIA, etc.  When we objected strongly, he 
insisted we leave, said it was his decision and his decision alone, 
and when we mentioned alerting the press to our being asked to leave 
Jim indicated so be it.  We were told that nobody other than Jim 
McKenzie, objected to our presence, not any of the three attorneys 
representing CAW, Deltic or Ferguson, nor anybody else there for the 
meeting (I suggest you confirm that for yourselves, if necessary).

Stakeholders have worked for two years now to first defeat Senate 
Bill 230 in the 2005 legislative session, and then to work as a 
community to draft and then implement protections for Lake Maumelle.  
I came to Arkansas way back in 1967 to serve the last 3 of my 4-years 
active duty at Little Rock Air Force Base on a Titan II nuclear 
missile launch crew.  I didn't serve one day of that four years so 
that government could operate in secret on such an important issue as 
protecting our drinking water quality.  This morning I seriously 
considered telling Jim Mckenzie that I was not going to leave and he 
could have me arrested if he felt the public didn't have a right to 
know what was being negotiated re their drinking water quality.

I've known Jim for years, respect the work he does, but I think he 
was dead wrong both this morning and for allowing himself to be 
injected into this whole Lake Maumelle issue by former L.R. Mayor Jim 
Dailey.  it is clear that Deltic and Ferguson felt things were going 
badly with the PAC late last summer and decided to turn to political 
heavyweights like Dailey to try and improve the way things were 
going.  In my humble opinion Jim's 'representation' (of course, he 
would not characterize his role that way) of the major developers 
since that time has hindered the work on the watershed management 
plan and inhibited the progress that should have been made, including 
the adoption of the comprehensive watershed management plan by the 
CAW Board.

Barry Haas

LETTER FROM KATE ALTHOFF

I would like to add a few comments concerning the events of this morning meeting at CAW. 

The basic issue is how to maintain the quality of our drinking water.  One answer is to protect the source of that water, Lake Maumelle.  The consultants tell us that the number one threat to the water quality of Lake Maumelle is the change in land use within the watershed from forest to development.  This leads to the next question to be solved.  How can high water quality be preserved while at the same time protecting the personal property rights of landowners within the watershed?  The answer is to spend $1.3 million dollars of ratepayer money to hire an independent consultant, bring together representatives from all the different competing interests in the land, and work together to find a compromise.  The result after 13 months of work between all parties is a comprehensive watershed management plan. 

Now comes part two.  The biggest landowner, Deltic Timber, does not like the way the comprehensive watershed management plan is looking so they express their concerns to Mayor Dailey of Little Rock.  Mayor Dailey then requested that Jim McKenzie of Metroplan act as mediator for negotiations between Central Arkansas Water and Deltic Timber.   The bottom line is that Metroplan is working on a "compromise" to the compromise reached by all the representatives who agreed upon the watershed management plan. 

Barry Haas' report of today’s events is just the latest in this matter. 

There are those who will argue that this meeting this morning is contract negotiations that are not subject to public review.  I believe that argument is not valid in that all the negotiations refer to the watershed management plan which was developed with input from the public.  

Let us stop the compromise of the compromise.  Please stop wasting the time and resource of citizen volunteers when they step forward to serve their community. 

Kate Althoff

 



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