The effort to secure compensation for Swain County from the federal government for a road it never completed has been a long and twisted tale, full of contentious political debate among Western North Carolina congressmen both old and new. The issue is now back in the news, as current GOP Rep. Mark Meadows has joined with Democrat and former 11th district representative Heath Shuler to push the National Park Service for a $4 million payment.
In 1943, the park service agreed to build a road (the so-called “Road to Nowhere”) along the North Shore of Fontana Lake to replace one that was flooded as part of the lake project. But due to financial and environmental concerns, the federal agency never completed the road, instead agreeing in 2010 to compensate Swain County to the tune of $52 million.
On Tuesday, Meadows and Shuler will testify before the U.S. House Sub-committee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation urging the park service to pay Swain County the remaining funds.
Here’s the latest news via a press release from the office of Mark Meadows:
Washington, D.C.— Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) will be joined by former Democrat Representative of the 11th District, Heath Shuler, next Tuesday to testify before the House Sub-committee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation urging it to pay Swain County funds allocated for the “Road to Nowhere.”
Currently, the National Park Service is withholding $4 million that was allocated to Swain County back in 2012 as part of a settlement with the federal government over a road that was supposed to be constructed as payment for the county when they conveyed land to the NPS for Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1943, but the road was never built. After a long back and forth, the county reached a settlement in 2010 with the federal government, which agreed to pay Swain County $52 million.
The county has received an initial payment, but the $4 million allocated in 2012 is being held up by the National Park Service. The Park Service will not release the funds without a direct authorization from Congress.
“Due to government bureaucracy, the residents of Swain County are still waiting for funds that were allocated to their county two years ago. I urge the Committee to move forward to a vote on the House floor to authorize these funds be released as was promised,” Rep. Mark Meadows said.
“The U.S. Department of Interior has been shortchanging the residents of Swain County over the North Shore Road since 1943,” former Rep. Heath Shuler said. “Congress approved this funding in 2012 and it’s time they direct these funds to Swain County as intended. I appreciate Rep. Meadow’s efforts on this issue and inviting me to stand with him to serve Swain County before the Subcommittee. He has truly championed this cause since serving in Congress,” he added.
“I’m grateful that Heath Shuler has agreed to testify on this issue, which I know he worked hard on during his time in Congress representing the people of North Carolina’s 11th district,” Meadows added.