Thursday, May 30, 2013
Delnita and Joe Foust had high stress careers in nursing and automobile assembly in Texas. One thing that helped them de-stress tremendously was regular vacations trip to the White River.
“I was a R.N. in a trauma center and Joe was working at an automobile factory and then he got his nursing degree and worked ten more years after retiring from General Motors in Arlington, Texas,” Delnita said. “This was the only place we went for vacations. It was magical. And it was healing. We used to come up here and go to Spider Creek cabin number three, which was $35 per night and had no telephone, radio or television. There was no helicopter on the roof, and no one beeping me. It was restoring. You could go back and do your job. When Joe and I were under stress, we would say, “I need Arkansas, a place to recharge my batteries before going back and driving those freeways 45 miles in one direction to get to and from work.”
Thirty years ago the Fousts bought five acres on the top of Wolf Ridge, a place with a panoramic view of their beloved White River. From their porch swing, you see little that is manmade this time of year. It is primarily the White River winding through forests and pasturelands. The land is so steep that they say – only half jokingly – that it takes four acres to hold up the one acre with their home and garden.
Delnita recalls that they took an extra job reading water meters to pay for their five acres. It took ten years. Then one year they came up to visit and saw someone was clear cutting land just down the mountain. At that point, they bought another 8.5 acres below them to make sure “some idiot with a bulldozer” didn’t destroy the beauty below them. They have since built nature trails through the acreage that goes down to a bluff over the White River.
“It took 20 years to pay for the land,” Delnita said. “We waited a long time to move up here. We built a house here in 2001 and moved up here in 2003. You don’t have to look too far to see why we love it. It was little more than a cow path when we first got the land. You could see very few houses. It is mainly pastures and trees.”
Joe still remembers having a picture of the land at his workbench at the auto assembly factory. “In my mind, I took trips to Arkansas nearly every day,” he said. “This is our dream spot.”
And now the Fousts’ dream home is threatened by the proposed SWEPCO 345 kiloVolt transmission line that would have towers 150 feet tall or taller – much taller than the tree line –that would take away the land they worked to pay for those many years. The transmission line would run between their home and the river, marring the view and creating the potential for landslides because the property is so very steep.
“I volunteered to serve in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968,” Joe said. “Once I got there, I could see that we really hadn’t thought that out well. There was no reason for us to be there. I see the same thing with this SWEPCO transmission line. This is something they haven’t really thought out well. It makes no sense. It would be a shame to destroy this area.”
Joe raises bees, so his concern is not just visual blight and destruction and potential landslides from the clear cutting of a path 150-feet wide and drilling boreholes 7-10 feet in diameter and 30-40 feet deep for the foundations for the towers. He is concerned that SWEPCO plans to keep the transmission line clear by spraying herbicides. He fears the pesticides could harm his bees. Like many beekeepers, he is already concerned about the drastic decline in the population of honeybees worldwide. He also worries about impacts to other wildlife like birds and frogs.
Joe has a rowing scull that he takes on the White River. Will he still want to do that with high voltage transmission lines towering over the river?
Joe and Delnita suspect that whoever made up the plans to build these towers on slopes so steep they are practically vertical must not have ever visited the area.
“With all the fresh air up here, people would be able to think straight if they had actually visited the area,” Joe said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see this is pristine mountain country. We all enjoy electric power, but there is no reason to destroy the countryside for it. It would leave a horrible scar on our property.”
Two of the six routes under consideration by SWEPCO run along the White River and through the terrain below Wolf Ridge. Joe suspects the routes SWEPCO has put forth were selected “by someone sitting in Dallas looking at Google Earth.”
SWEPCO has stated that with hundreds of miles of routes under consideration, it wasn’t possible to do on-the-ground surveys. For people like the Fousts and their neighbors along Wolf Ridge, that is inexcusable.
“I live in a wonderful neighborhood with great neighbors who are here when you need them, but you can’t see their houses,” Delnita said. “The last thing I want to look at is the huge ugly towers they are proposing. Where the world is half concrete, you expect this kind of infrastructure. But this area is a treasure for Arkansas. I am appalled that folks who are in charge of the State of Arkansas are not up in arms. Think of the generations to come who are going to have to look at the scar. My grandparents lived in Lavaca, Ark. This is the fifth generation of my family that has been coming to Arkansas, and I would like it for many more generations to look like this. Who would ever have dreamed someone would march through here and be so cavalier about this beautiful forest we are lucky enough to live in? We all try to take care of it. We all feel a strong responsibility to be good stewards of what we have.
“This is a precious watershed. People come from all over to fish this White River. Beaver Lake is so amazing. For all of this to tumble north so beautifully being enjoyed by the fishermen, and folks in canoes, kayaks and rowing sculls, I can’t imagine what people were thinking when they looked at this and thought it would be a great idea to cut down all these trees and put up this transmission line. People come here all the time and they are not coming to see power lines. What they are proposing is devastating. It breaks my heart.”
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