Maumelle group corrects Farm Bureau | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Maumelle group corrects Farm Bureau

Posted By on Tue, Dec 13, 2011 at 3:01 PM

I and others have already noted that it is incorrect and/or dishonest for the Arkansas Farm Bureau to suggest it has linked arms with the Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed in opposition to land use proposals up for committee consideration by the Quorum Court tonight. Barry Haas of CPMW would like to re-emphasize that with a statement on the jump.

Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed's (CPMW) has not been asked nor have we publicly expressed either support for or opposition to the most recent draft Zoning Code. That revised draft was released on November 21 AFTER the public was told Pulaski Co. Judge Floyd Villines was unwilling to consider any additional changes.

The Arkansas Farm Bureau has not been granted permission to use CPMW's name nor has CPMW ever met with the Farm Bureau to discuss issues related to Lake Maumelle. CPMW has been working to help protect Lake Maumelle, the primary public drinking water supply for roughly 400,000 central Arkansans for the past seven years. The Farm Bureau got interested in this issue in just the past few months. A johnny-come-lately, yes, but at least they are finally aware of this critical public policy issue.

The Farm Bureau says "There has yet to be one group stand up and support this document as is" [emphasis added]. That is a "technical" truth, but not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Shame on the Arkansas Farm Bureau for that distortion of CPMW's position. We are surprised at their lack of professionalism.

The basis for the current draft Zoning Code is politics, not science. As proof of that fact, we offer e-mails between Tim Daters, Deltic Timber's engineer, and Van McClendon, Director of Pulaski Co. Planning and Development, negotiating to the exclusion of everyone else in August to add more than 8,000 additional new houses to what was already excessive density in the watershed. Deltic Timber owns about 12,000 acres in the Pulaski Co. portion of the Lake Maumelle watershed, by far the largest private landowner. The result of those secret negotiations? More than 8,000 acres went from one house per acre to two houses per acre, just like magic. What impact would that have on our water quality? Who cares?

CPMW has urged specific changes to the draft Lake Maumelle Watershed Zoning Code that would reduce the permitted density by which roughly one-half of the developable land in the Pulaski Co. portion of the watershed can be developed as 1/2-acre lots and the other half as 1-acre lots. That is city density in a sensitive public water supply watershed that ultimately will not protect our drinking water quality. Compare those 1/2 and 1-acre lots with the 5 and 10-acre lots in the Lake Maumelle Watershed Management Plan that was based on science. We are talking 10 times the density in the draft Zoning Code compared to the science in the Lake Maumelle Watershed Management Plan.

It was CPMW that first raised the issue of the oil pipeline that crosses the watershed. We have pushed Central Arkansas Water (CAW) to see if the pipeline owner would consider moving it outside the watershed and to ensure if a leak does occur public officials are ready to keep such a leak from forcing a cutoff of the water supply for 400,000 central Arkansans. That would be an economic and human disaster! As a result of CPMW's efforts regarding the pipeline, CAW has practiced disaster drills with other local emergency response officials and is investing in booms and other containment devices to control a spill should one occur. The pipeline was laid about five years before the lake was constructed in the 1950's. At 60 years old, the pipeline at some point will need to be replaced. When that happens, the replacement pipeline should not be located in the Lake Maumelle Watershed. CPMW will continue to the best of our ability to make sure any risk due to this pipeline is reduced as much as possible. We appreciate the Arkansas Farm Bureau finally realizing this pipeline exists.

CPMW has long believed our position on this issue and that of the majority of current homeowners in the watershed have a great deal in common. We are confident that we could truly be allies in presenting an effective and fair zoning ordinance to the Quorum Court for adoption. Such an alliance has been spoiled by Brent Stevenson, lobbyist for Deltic Timber and others. CPMW would like to work with current homeowners in the watershed as well as any other stakeholders.

Judge Villines in an email yesterday characterized the current zoning code as a “mid-point” between those who want more stringent regulations and those who prefer no regulations. Such a characterization is highly effective politically in gaining support, which is why months ago paid lobbyist Brent Stevenson sought out current homeowners in the watershed and has worked them into a frenzy of opposition based on misinformation. The result is no alliance between current homeowners in the watershed and CPMW. Such an alliance would be a political nightmare for those seeking to pass such a permissive zoning code.

To be crystal clear- the Arkansas Farm Bureau does not represent the views of Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed and to imply otherwise is dishonest on the Farm Bureau's part. We ask that in the future the Arkansas Farm Bureau act responsibly and refrain from misrepresenting Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed's position.

Barry Haas
Spokesperson, Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed

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