Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

EDITORIAL>> Deltic Timber tries Trojan Horse gambit

Just when it appears that people in Central Arkansas can celebrate the prospect of another quarter-century of clean water the word comes that the developers have been reading classical mythology. They resurrected the Trojan Horse.

Owing at least partly to the good leadership of House Speaker Bill Stovall of Quitman, the bill to effectively strip Central Arkansas Water of its power to protect the waters of Lake Maumelle looks to be dead in the City, County and Local Affairs Committee of the House of Representa-tives. Deltic Timber Corp., which wants to build a 225-mansion subdivision on the scenic slopes around the intake that supplies water to Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot and the rest of the urban community, does not have the votes to get the bill out of the committee.

It turns out that the waterworks’ own governing commission, under pressure from the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and development interests, may be about to back down. Commissioners are weighing resolutions that would accept a moratorium.

Deltic would not start building homes immediately and the water company would not exercise eminent domain for a couple of years while a comprehensive management plan is put into place and an “independent” expert consulted on whether runoff from the huge development would do much harm to the waters.

The waterworks director, Jim Harvey, and the professionals at the agency are mystified and apoplectic, as should be all of us who enjoy or who soon will enjoy the best water in America.

The moratorium would give Deltic, which owns some 400,000 acres of timber and development land in Arkansas, time to influence a few legislative elections and change the composition of the House sufficiently to assure passage of the bill in 2007. Stovall will be gone. The bullheaded and courageous Jim Harvey is retiring.

When hundreds of millions of dollars of profits are hanging in the balance, what’s two more years?

The water commission will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday in Little Rock. It needs to hear the voices of consumers. You can be sure they’ve heard the developers.