Thursday, August 22, 2013
Jeff Thacker and Teri Garrett, field representatives for Rep. Steve Womack, drew the assignment of setting up a field office in Eureka Springs August 15, and hearing from the public on Womack’s behalf.
No sooner were they set up than Ilene Powell, wearing her orange “No on SWEPCO” T-shirt, arrived. She said she really wanted to speak with Womack personally, and Thacker said she would have to work that out with Womack’s scheduler in Washington. Powell insisted Womack needs to hear both sides of the SWEPCO issue rather than just propaganda from SWEPCO regarding its proposed transmission line through Carroll County.
“We’re not getting a good response from him,” Powell said. “He needs to hear from his constituents. We need a meeting in Eureka Springs on this specific subject. People are going to lose jobs, lose property. This area is going to suffer irreparable damage.”
As she was speaking, a second orange-shirted person entered the room, and then a third.
Martha Peine told Thacker and Garrett she had one question only: What would it take for Womack to put new eyes on the evidence?
Thacker said Womack cannot use his office to make decisions that are state issues, and insisted Womack does listen to his constituents and does not want the wrong thing to happen.
As more orange shirts filed into the small space, Peine said, “If Womack reexamines the evidence, he will see our point.” She said people in Missouri would agree they don’t need the power from the transmission lines being proposed.
Again she asked, “Is there anything I can say to convince him?”
Faith Shah said, “I have been calling your office since April, and I keep hearing this is a state issue. I think the value of the Ozarks is being underestimated. The Ozarks are a huge economic asset to the state.”
Shah said SWEPCO worked on this proposal for six years, yet locals were given only 30 days to respond. She said she would like the same six years for her side to study this issue, and added that residents in this area have been treated with disdain by elected officials. “Everyone says, ‘It’s not my job, it’s not my job, it’s not my job!’ So whose job is it to protect this wonderful environment? The people who don’t realize the damage being proposed are those who proposed it, and they don’t live here.”
She said outrage about this issue is growing and gaining momentum. “We’re fighting for our lives,” she remarked.
“The congressman has a chance to look smart by speaking out on this issue,” she asserted as even more people wearing orange shirts arrived. “We have a vibrant community, but we’re small. We don’t need a 345 megawatt line. We need a hero.”
Valerie Damon-Hubbard made her point quickly. She asked, “What does Womack want his legacy to be – someone who sold out to SWEPCO? It would be so sad for his great-grandchildren to know he did such a terrible thing.”
Intelligent, impassioned, well-reasoned pleas for support continued. Steve Campbell said, “If you follow the money, you can see where the influence lies.” He traced the proposal back to what he called “a monetary grab for federal dollars.” He also decried the devastating effects of overhead spraying of herbicides by helicopters along the clear cut path. He claimed overspray would be massive and he has not heard from SWEPCO any concerns for safety because, as he sees it, ‘They don’t care.’”
“Who else can we go to but an elected official?” Campbell asked. “We’re not getting any assistance down here and people are frustrated.”
As the groundswell of support for Campbell among the crowd of orange shirts was growing, Thacker stated, “I can see the passion of your commentary.”
Geraldine Hamby also spoke up about pesticide use that will accompany the clear cutting and huge towers for the proposed transmission lines. She said in the past she had protested the use of herbicide-spraying being planned near her property. She was assured there would be no deleterious effects, and yet her trees were defoliated. Now, she said, here it comes again, and her organic greenhouse business could be in jeopardy.
“The government of the people, for the people, by the people has gone awry,” Hamby said. She also questioned whether the karst terrain in our area could adequately support the foundations required for such huge towers. She implored Thacker to take everyone’s comments back to Womack “so he might stand with us.”
Thacker stated Womack listens to citizens and is aware of this issue, but his office is not in a position to influence this matter, claiming it is a state issue.
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