Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

EDITORIAL>> People win, Deltic loses

Intense lobbying by one of Arkansasí largest industries could not persuade a House committee on Wednesday to approve a bill that would have polluted Lake Maumelle.

Had the bill slipped through the committee, following easy passage in the Senate last month, the utility that provides much of the water for this area would have been barred from keeping developers out of the Lake Maumelle watershed, leading to pollution and reducing the availability of safe drinking water.

Deltic Timber, which poured thousands of dollars into a public-relations campaign that went nowhere, will have a much harder time convincing the courts that itís in the public interest to build $1 million homes overlooking the lake that taxpayersí money had developed to provide pure drinking water for central Arkansas. Deltic thinks it should have the right to destroy what took decades to build.

Delticís proposed development is the equivalent of allowing a pig farm inside your city limits. The stink and pollution are unbearable at these pig farms, and Delticís plan was no less appalling. Itís a good thing the Ledge buried the proposal at least until the next session.

If the committee had turned the bill loose to the House, which would probably have approved the proposal, passage almost certainly would have stopped the court proceedings against the development on the north shore. Now the judge can rule in that condemnation case prohibiting developers from moving into the watershed.

The committeeís burial of the Deltic bill presumably kills the issue for a good while, and we can also presume that CAW commissioner Jane Dickeyís willingness to compromise with Deltic is also dead at the water board, which can now move expeditiously to protect the lake and provide us with more water in the future.

The City, County and Local Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, preserved some honor for this legislature by rejecting this special-interest grab. Speaker Bill Stovall of Quitman, who helped kill the bill, deserves a special pat on the back, too.

Stovall and Bond, along with nearly the entire committee, fought the good fight that ended as a victory for the people and good government. Central Arkansas Water, the utility that fought Deltic Timber, will, at least for now, preserve the right of eminent domain, allowing it to control development along the lake. The power of eminent domain works for the public good and keeps polluters in check, outfits like Deltic that paint the rosiest of scenarios with no concern for the rest of us.
Rep. Bond, along with most area legislators, came out against Deltic and the polluters.

Speaker Stovall was strong in his opposition since he knows the importance of expanding the supply of fresh water. Stovallís district is relying on Greers Ferry Lake for the areaís growing water needs, and pollution along any lake jeopardizes the health and welfare of the entire state.

Almost no one else in the legislature outside the Central Arkansas Water area showed any interest in this fight, so Stovallís brave stance in support of the metropolitan area is especially satisfying. It was also a pleasure to see Sen. Jodie Mahony, D-El Dorado, one of the billís sponsors, flee the committee hearing room when he realized his proposal had no chance of getting out of committee.

Mahony, who has had a long and distinguished career, represents the area where Murphy Oil, Delticís parent company, is based, but he has lost his credibility in the legislature on account of his slavish devotion to his paymasters.

It was good to see him squirm. The people won this round.