A compromise delay on Lake Maumelle protection | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A compromise delay on Lake Maumelle protection

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 6:19 AM

JP Tyler Denton, under deserved fire for throwing in with the bad guys and joining Republican members of the Pulaski Quorum Court to delay watershed protection ordinances for the Maumelle watershed for four years, backed a compromise delay last night.

It changes the moratorium for still more study of something under study for the better part of a decade to one year.

Here's the proposal, which seems likely to win final passage given a 14-0 vote last night.

Commented Denton to me:

I think you will see that my intentions are all about water quality protection and that I am coming from a good place.

Barry Haas, who's labored long and nobly in the cause of environmental issues in the city and state, offered this comment to me in passing along the ordinance. He speaks more credibly than most on the subject:

I know you've expressed your unhappiness that the Quorum Court didn't pass the December 2012 Zoning Code last month on its 3rd and final reading. But a number of us who have worked on this issue for more than 8 years now believed then and still believe we can do better as a community and present a stronger ordinance to the Quorum Court as a result of the Moratorium. It's our last, best shot at giving the Quorum Court a chance to vote on a document that infringes on existing watershed landowners as little as possible while at the same time offering better protection for our drinking water quality. If our efforts fail, in 12 months the December 2012 Zoning Code will go into effect as part of the Moratorium language.

The only discussion tonight was whether the Moratorium would last 12 months as in the attached draft or 6 months. A motion to shorten it to 6 months failed on a 7-7 tie vote.

It's been a very difficult process in recent days. JP Tyler Denton deserves credit for hanging in there when it appeared compromise might not be possible. Things came together shortly before tonight's Quorum Court meeting.

We will all know in not too many months if our expectations can and will be realized.

The braying about the earlier four-year moratorium by the lobbyist for the anti-regulation Koch Brothers and Deltic Timber, the largest property owner in the watershed, told me all I needed to know about whose interests were best served by Denton's earlier surprise monkey wrench in approving what was, yes, a watered down watershed protection ordinance.

I think a one-year delay still is more likely to serve the interests of those with the money and staying power to play the long game, which says that — when you can't win — delay the final tally. But if Barry Haas thinks the latest is a meaningful compromise with a chance for a better outcome, that opinion is worth some weight.

The Quorum Court will come to a decision point at election time. As if that matters. One current JP defeated a former Deltic lobbyist and Denton himself ran on watershed protection only to cast his first critical vote with the forces of darkness. A year after last year's ticket closed, we are about to be a year farther removed from watershed protection. But, yes, that's better than four years removed.

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