Swain gets $4 million in partial fulfillment of Fontana settlement

Left to Right: Swain County Manager Kevin King, Swain County Commissioner Kenneth Parton, US Senator Thom Tillis, NC Representative Mike Clampitt, US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, US Representative Mark Meadows, Swain County Commission Chair Phil Carson
Left to Right: Swain County Manager Kevin King, Swain County Commissioner Kenneth Parton, US Senator Thom Tillis, NC Representative Mike Clampitt, US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, US Representative Mark Meadows, Swain County Commission Chair Phil Carson

Press release from the office of Sen. Thom Tillis:

Tillis Helps Secure Partial Swain County Reimbursement From Department of the Interior

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) applauded Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Department of the Interior for releasing $4 million that was appropriated to Swain County in 2012 but never transferred. Senator Tillis has worked alongside Secretary Zinke and his staff to lead the effort in securing the $4 million that was appropriated to them as part of a $52 million settlement owed to Swain County by the federal government and has submitted appropriations requests for FY 17 and FY 18 to secure the remaining $35.2 million.

“I want to thank Secretary Zinke and his team for their leadership to ensure Swain County receives their long-overdue payment that is owed to them by the federal government,” said Senator Tillis. “This is an issue I have been working on since I was sworn in to the U.S. Senate, and I will continue to work with Swain County, Congress, and the Department of the Interior to advocate for the rest of the money they are owed is appropriated and repaid to them as promised.”

“One of my top priorities as your Secretary of the Interior is making sure the federal government is a good neighbor and a good land manager for federal lands like national parks and battlefields. Making sure Swain County received the funds from the Department of the Interior  was key,” said Secretary Zinke. “Senators Tillis and Burr and Rep. Meadows made sure this project did not get lost in the paperwork. I’m grateful for their tenacity on behalf of North Carolina.”

Background:

In the early 1940’s the federal government flooded several communities in Swain County to build the Fontana Dam. In 1943 the federal government promised to rebuild the 30-mile North Shore Road that was flooded to build the dam. The government failed to deliver on that promise and in 2007 agreed to a cash settlement of $52 million.

In 2010 the Department of the Interior, Swain County, the State of North Carolina and Tennessee Valley Authority entered into a “Memorandum of Agreement” to “settle any and all claims under the 1943 Agreement.” To date, the county has only received $12.8 million.

The $4 million that is being released today comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 that included the North Shore Road in the prioritized project list for the Park Service. This money was never appropriated because Department of the Interior argued that had they did not have the legal authority to do so.

Statement from Sen. Richard Burr:

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) made the following statement on the Department of Interior’s decision to release $4 million in appropriated funds to Swain County, North Carolina:

“The Department of Interior’s decision to compensate Swain County is well overdue, as it was initially appropriated in 2011. I support the Department’s decision and count it as a step in the right direction, but I will continue to press the Department to fully match Swain County’s expectations dating back to a decade-old agreement. When the federal government makes a promise, it should keep that promise. I will continue to work to hold the government accountable.”

Press release from the office of Rep. Mike Clampitt:

Partnership Leads to Federal Funds for Swain County

(Bryson City, North Carolina) – Today, Rep. Mike Clampitt joined U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, and U.S. Representative Mark Meadows at the Department of the Interior Office in Washington, D.C. to announce the initial payment of $4 million for the North Shore Road settlement signed in 2010.

“By the combined efforts of local officials partnering with congressional leaders our communities will being to receive the valuable funds they are due,” said Representative Clampitt. “I am grateful to Senator Tillis, Congressman Meadows, and Secretary Zinke for their steadfast efforts to fulfill their promise to the citizens of the 119 th District.”

As background, the North Shore Road was proposed to run through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1943. Yet due to bureaucratic red tape, the road was never finished and was abandoned altogether in the 1970s. As a result of seeking monetary relief from the lost opportunity, a settlement was reached in 2010 by parties representing the Federal government, the state of North Carolina, and Swain County. However until the leadership of Senator Tillis and Congressman Meadows no money had been appropriated to fulfill the terms of the settlement.

Within the first two months of taking office, Rep. Clampitt filed House Bill 260 Attorney General/North Shore Road Payment. The bill called on Attorney General Josh Stein to investigate all legal avenues available to the state to move the federal government to action on satisfying the $35.2 million settlement that was reached in 2010. House Bill 260 received a unanimous vote of 110-0 in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

Said Clampitt, “I cannot emphasize enough the role Senator Tillis and Congressman Meadows played, with getting the ball rolling to begin rectifying a wrong that was brought upon the citizens of western North Carolina, particularly Swain County.”

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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