our water source
___The Arkansas legislature
never stands taller than when it stoops to help a rich private interest.
___ We were reminded of that cynical maxim
last week when 21 members of the state Senate sponsored a bill to give
private real-estate developers a virtually free rein to corrupt municipal
___ Every homeowner and business in the
area should take notice of this little bill, SB 230, introduced on behalf
of Deltic Timber Corp., the spin-off real-estate subsidiary of Murphy
Corp., the global oil and gas exploration company. Deltic developed
the Chenal Valley subdivisions and proposes more luxury developments
in the watershed of Lake Maumelle. Maumelle is the chief source of the
___ Jacksonville and Cabot soon will receive
all their water from Central Arkansas Water, the regional water utility
that is trying to keep Maumelle waters pure. Deltic, which owns some
400,000 acres of high-value timber and speculative land in Arkansas,
much of it in western Pulaski County, wants to build a 225-home subdivision
called The Ridges of Nowlin Creek on the south shore of Maumelle at
the mouth of the watershed.
___ Central Arkansas Water wants to stop
that and another upscale development in the watershed. It wants Deltic
to keep the land in its pristine forested state or else sell the land
to the water company, which would keep the land in its natural state
and prevent contamination.
___ Otherwise, Central Arkansas Water will
have to spend $60 million or more in treatment facilities to keep the
waters safe. Water customers like you who else? would
bear those costs. Deltic's bill would make it nearly impossible for
water companies to exercise the power of eminent domain to protect water
supplies, which is the last resort if a developer refuses to sell the
land or sell it at a reasonable price.
___ Instead, under SB 230, developers could
voluntarily work out agreements with the state Soil and Water Conservation
Commission to solve any contamination problems that the developers might
foresee. The state commission has been friendly to development interests.
Developers in effect would determine when they were causing a problem
and what they would do about it.
___ The water company and the public would
be mere bystanders. Deltic's spokesman says it's a fairness issue. Developers
ought to have a stronger hand in preserving their property rights against
the assertion of the public interest. It's a matter of balance between
public and private interests, he said. The waterworks is not asking
too much when it seeks to keep pivotal parts of the watershed in its
___ Deltic, after all, calls itself a timber
company and it could harvest the timber at regular intervals. Deltic
and the other development interests in those valuable hills and valleys
assess the real estate as timber land, which means it is on the tax
rolls at a value of $165 an acre when undeveloped lots are going for
tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. ___Deltic
and the other owners are paying about $1.67 an acre a year in taxes
to the schools and county government. Have you looked at the tax bill
for your home?
___ Don't shed any tears for the developers
who might not get the maximum profits from their speculative ventures
if they must yield to the public's interest in clean, affordable water.
___ With 21 of 35 senators already signed
on as sponsors, the bill is greased in the Senate. Call your legislators
representatives and senators and ask them to stand up
for the public.