Shuler: No road, thank you — we’ll take cash

Congressman Heath Shuler today joined with several other representatives and senators from North Carolina and Tennessee to urge the U.S. Deptartment of the Interior to scrap plans for the $600 million North Shore Road (aka the “Road-to-Nowhere) in Swain County through Great Smoky Mountains National Park and instead give the county a cash settlement.

Shuler, a native of the county, has called the road a taxpayer boondoggle and environmentally insensitive.

Below is the text of the letter Shuler and his fellow lawmakers delivered March 28 to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

— Hal L. Millard, staff writer


The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Considering the significant environmental and economic costs associated with building the North Shore Road—or the so-called “Road to Nowhere” through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—we ask that you begin immediately to work with us to provide a cash settlement to the citizens of Swain County, North Carolina, rather than further constructing the road.

We recommend these three steps:

First, within the next 90 days, the National Park Service’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should endorse a cash settlement to Swain County instead of any further construction on the North Shore Road.

Second, upon completion of the EIS, the Administration should support legislation that will be introduced in Congress to reprogram the funds remaining from those originally appropriated for the EIS, currently about $6 million, and give those funds to Swain County as the first installment of the settlement.

Third, in January 2008, as a part of its fiscal year 2009 budget request to Congress, the Administration should include in its budget the next installment of the full cash settlement to Swain County.  This funding should come from outside the National Park Service budget in the form of a special request.

The United States made a commitment to Swain County in 1943, when it flooded a highway in connection with the creation of the Fontana Dam, to build a new road through what had become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The U.S. Supreme Court, however, held in 1946 that there is no legal obligation to satisfy that commitment by building another road.  A cash settlement instead of a road is precisely the kind of “common sense adjustment” that the Supreme Court envisioned. 

A road through the Park would damage the largest and most pristine wilderness area in the eastern United States.  Such a road would cost at least $600 million, more than 75 times the annual roads budget of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  In addition, a good highway now exists outside the Park between Bryson City and Fontana. 

This sort of settlement has been recommended by the elected Swain County Commission and the governors of North Carolina and Tennessee, and is supported by the undersigned members of the North Carolina and Tennessee congressional delegations.

After over 60 years of controversy, it is time to bring this matter to a close.  The solution we are endorsing will protect America’s most visited national park, save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and fulfill a promise to the citizens of Swain County, North Carolina.



Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

16 thoughts on “Shuler: No road, thank you — we’ll take cash

  1. tntrace46

    Mr. Shuler is SOOOO WRONG! We here in Swain County, especially those of us with family still living, who gave up there land, do not want money! WE WANT OUR ROAD BUILT!!!!!!! If there is not going to be a road built I want my family’s property given back to us!

  2. Are you aware of the environmental impact of building this road, or the cost? The North Fork Rd. is neither practical nor responsible.

    Also, make sure that you are using the correct form of the words “there” and “their” in your responses.

  3. tntrace46

    Well excuse me Jason for not spelling one word right. According to the park impact study there is NO NEGATIVE IMPACT and according to a contractor the road can be built for half of what the environmentalist want to spend on building the road. And just where is the North Fork Rd? I have never heard of this road.

  4. I’m going to need you to lay off of the exclamation points before I can have any sort of conversation with you. Also, Grey’s Anatomy is on in a second, so the rest of the night is pretty locked up for me. Let’s do this tomorrow.

  5. Devilhawk

    Shuler’s election has placed yet another obstacle in the way of the US completing its contract with Swain County. Perhaps with time , we will replace Shuler, meanwhile Swain was already paid a sum of cash long ago, most of which became unaccounted for, so we dont really trust money in the control of what appears to be a corrupt political cadre which holds Swain in its grip of power for political and financial gain. In the most rescent past, several deals have taken place in the buying and selling of land for various projects making millionairs of members of the elite power group in Swain. There is an investigation of possible election problems as well as changing the manner in which the sherriff is compensated.
    All this along with the road issue adds to the malaise in Swains present and future. Add to all this the probable revamping of the Wilderness Act which could actually eliminate Swain from the map of NC.
    So ok, dont build the road and dont expect anythig to change in Swain because thats how the machine keeps its power.

  6. Buffalowolfe

    Will the network administrator please remove Mr. Bugg’s ability to make fun of other’s typing, grammar and political views. I was really interested in what this online paper had to say, but you can’t truly get a flavor for the readers’ opinions because of his inferiority complex and the fact that his life consists of television and web surfing in his mother’s basement.

    Can you do it before he wakes up around noon?

  7. zen

    I frequently don’t agree with Jason, but he has every right to speak his mind here even as long as it’s not slanderous. By Mr. Bugg’s own admission he frequently goes for the easy joke and if that means correcting typing or even stating the other side of your political views then he should be able to do that here.

    I’d defend your right to pick on his factual errors, too.

  8. Ha ha, I’m up before eleven. Success!

    Also I don’t live in my mother’s basement. I actually live with my wife. In my mother’s basement.

  9. JakeAU99

    The park’s impact study stated NO NEGATIVE IMPACT?!? That study, with which I admit I’m not familiar, must not have considered environmental impacts. Road building, especially through forested mountainous terrain, will negatively impact that local ecosystem more than any other project short of strip mining even with the strictest sediment and erosion control practices in place. Sorry to get partisan on y’all but here it comes…if the study stated “no negative environmental impacts” then it must have been influenced or edited by the Taylor bunch. That sort of thing is certainly not unprecedented. Furthermore, exactly what does Swain Co. stand to gain from a road through the wilderness of the park? How will the benefit of a road outweigh an enormous payout?

  10. Devilhawk

    As far as is known to me, the study was done by an unbiased scientific research firm. The editing was not done by the “Taylor Bunch”,but used a great deal of input from both sides of the issue.
    The impacts are not the same as impairments and the wide path outlined for the location of the road leaves a great deal of room for mitigation.
    As far as influence, its is well documented that the mumerous and powerful environmental groups had the ability to act and react more than the small and scattered group which still believes the US shoild build the road for the replacement of the partially flooded road that the county continued to pay for long after it was under the Lake.
    The county can gain from spin off and from the constuction phase itself, the DEIS estimated the financial gain to the County would be about ten times the gain from a cash settlement. I believe
    the projected cost were inflated for what ever reason by the Park Service to discourage those for the road and to invigorate those who oppose the road. I believe that the road would help allow all Americans ready access to a portion of the GSMNP that up to now is available only to a privilaged few who have the time and health to hike into this region or the wealth to boat across Fontana Lake. As far as a cash settlement,
    Swain was paid a large sum long ago and there does not appear to be an accounting of happened to that payment.

  11. Sundance

    Even through there are reports of no negative environmental impact to having the north shore road as a whole there is an issue during the construction phase due to the acidic stone which even under controlled circumstances will have negative environmental impacts during construction due to storm water run off getting into the streams and into Fontana lake which could cause fish kill and other issues.

    What they have proposed for the path of the road should be changed to just run along most parts of the un-flooded parts of the abandoned highway 288 and build new sections of road around the flooded sections. While I am really not in favor of the road the government did make a written agreement with the State, Swain County and Bryson City. A copy of the agreement can be found on many sites on the net. Therefore, the road should have been built a long time ago and should be completed.

    On a side note to tntrace46, the land your family had before the Fontana project is now part of the GSMNP and I would imagine your family was compensated in some fashion back at the start of the Fontana project so I would have to say that there is really no legitimate demand or claim to have the land given back to your family.

  12. Devilhawk

    New methods were devloped since the road was halted the first time, these methods were used in the new Highway in Graham County and envole run off capture as well as encapulation in lime layers for raising Ph values.
    The Park Sevices itself in the rescent past performed its own fish kill of certain trout species. which group demanded or protested this action?
    The path for the road is a wide swath allowing for your suggestion on road location.
    The section of the road built from Bryson City into the Park to the tunnel has recovered nicely.
    The Agreement is well documented and it indicated the intention of the US to do the moral and fair thing by replacing 288 with a twenty foot wide dustless road.
    The replacemnt road would require only a few hundred of millions of acres in the NC side of the
    Yes, families were “compensated” if you look at the average payout in the thirty$ per acre range and less, many were unable to start over without much searching and sacrifice, but thats what you do when you are convinced you country needs your homeplace for national goals.
    Swain County soldiers returned from WWII having no idea where to look for their families who had scattered to other parts os Swain and other counties and states.
    If you buy a new car with a loan or contract to pay, what happens when you fail to make your payments, are you going to be driving that auto much longer?
    And yes, the road should be built to preserve the sacrifice of past Swain pioneer families and to help financial future of this region.

  13. Sundance

    Firstly I said while I was not in favor of the road, I said it should be built. Through my reading, almost all of the proposed paths have not incorporated existing/abandoned road beds which if they did may lead to a less destructive and cheaper alternative to the completion of the road. I also believe that there where indeed some environmental problems to the Graham county road if you are speaking about the widened section of NC 28. Storm water run off will never be completely controlled no matter what you do.

    As for compensation and notification to loved ones. Give the demographic and population of the area at the time and the country beginning to come out of the great depression the payout of around $30 an acre was probably market value or better during that era.

    “Swain County soldiers returned from WWII having no idea where to look for their families who had scattered to other parts of Swain and other counties and states.” Please tell me it is not your intention to claim that it was the governments responsibility to notify loved ones?

    I say it was the families responsibility to write their loved ones and notify them of change. Government is already way to big and we lose more rights everyday as individuals because of it.


Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.