Favorite

A false compromise 

There are developments in the controversy involving Central Arkansas Water and Deltic Timber, but first the background. Deltic owns just about all the piney woods from Little Rock to Morrilton, including some spectacular “view” acreage above Lake Maumelle. (The lake was created as a water source for the Little Rock water utility, now a regional supplier.) It pays about $1.50 an acre in taxes each year for this “timber property,” hoping to sell it for roughly $100,000 an acre for home construction. The choicest property is about a half-mile from the main water intake on Lake Maumelle, straight down a steep, rocky slope. This land, in what is known as Zone 1 of the watershed, is deemed particularly fragile environmentally. Just about any development, careful or not, could pollute the water and increase treatment costs. That’s why the utility has told Deltic it doesn’t want to see the land developed. Deltic is not accustomed to people saying no. It has received a number of favors from the water company over the years to keep its Chenal Valley golf courses green. When it wants to annex, the city board complies. Development impact fees? Perish the thought. Stunned by this “no,” Deltic took the nuclear option. It got Sen. Bob Johnson, who also owns land in the watershed, to sponsor a bill to virtually strip the utility of the ability to condemn land around the lake. This single-issue bill was rammed through the Senate by pre-arrangement, but the House wasn’t so easy. The bill is stymied there thanks to opposition from environmentalists, other utilities, city and county officials and more. So Deltic switched direction. It called in the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce (of which Deltic is a major financial supporter) to “facilitate” secret discussions, uncovered by the Times over the weekend. A key water commissioner, Jane Dickey, happens to have close ties with the chamber. Suddenly, the antsy water commission began to send signals that it might compromise. According to one proposal being floated by Dickey, it would agree not to condemn Deltic’s land if Deltic agreed not to do anything with it for two years, while a long-planned watershed management study proceeded. About this, Bruce McMath, the water utility’s attorney in a pending condemnation dispute, has cogent points. First, he wrote, a compromise with Deltic would anger the people who sacrificed to stand up to Deltic. Second, it would make water officials look stupid for asserting so emotionally (and Dickey was among them) that stopping construction on the Deltic ridge was essential. Third, it could ruin the utility’s case against others who might want to develop in the watershed. A moratorium also would give Deltic more time to game the system — time when the upright Jim Harvey might retire as water CEO and the tough Bill Stovall will no longer be House speaker. There are benefits to hanging tough. McMath wrote that “beating this bill could place CAW in the position of pushing some truly useful legislation next time around, which would give it some options other than condemnation.” If Deltic really is a good citizen, yet sure it won’t harm the lake, why not simply promise to await the outcome of the independent watershed management study before developing its land? Nothing else would be required, certainly not a commitment by the water utility that could tie its hands in protecting Lake Maumelle from despoilers.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • In black and white

    The men and women who patrol Little Rock in black and white vehicles tell a story in black and white.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • Man's world

    The news of high-profile men outed for sexual harassment and worse shows no sign of abating soon.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • The Clintons

    I wasn't particularly excited about the 25th anniversary celebration of Bill Clinton's election. Life goes on.
    • Nov 23, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Viewed

  • Gratitude

    Now, more than ever, I find myself thankful for those who resist. Those who remind us of our higher common values. The fact-checkers and truth-tellers. Those who build bridges in communities instead of walls to segregate. The ones who stand up and speak out against injustice.
  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
  • Money talks

    Democratic candidates face a dilemma in Arkansas. To take on the GOP members who are firmly entrenched in the state Legislature and Congress, they will need lots of money and lots of votes. The easiest way to get more votes is to spend more money. Obscene amounts of money. And thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and President Trump's judicial appointments, this will be our reality for a long time. The six Republicans who make up our congressional delegation have stopped pretending to care about their constituents. They vote in line with the interests of big corporations and lobbyists. They know what side their bread is buttered on.
  • Silly acts, good law

    It was unavoidable that the struggle by sexual minorities to gain the equal treatment that the Constitution promises them would devolve into silliness and that the majestic courts of the land would have to get their dignity sullied in order to resolve the issues.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: A difference

    • Gillibrand is a tough chick, and she knows she is a political whore, like 95%…

    • on December 14, 2017
  • Re: Cats and dogs

    • I miss my wolves. It has been over five years since the last of my…

    • on December 12, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation