More than a year after releasing a draft environmental impact statement on the North Shore Road, also known as the "Road to Nowhere," officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have announced a preference for the proposed road's future.
That preference? Don't build it and instead give a lump sum $52 million payout to Swain County (North Carolina).
That position was laid out today when park officials announced they were beginning work on the final EIS on the road proposal.
“Even though the FEIS will not be released for several months, we wanted to be responsive to the intense public interest in the status of this undertaking,” Great Smoky Superintendent Dale Ditmanson explained.
“In most cases the National Park Service would have identified its Agency Preferred Alternative in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). In this instance we did not select a preferred alternative because the DEIS presented new information, specifically, much higher cost estimates for several of the alternatives, which the public had not seen before.”
Ditmanson says the decision to identify a preferred alternative came after the review of nearly 76,000 public comments submitted in response to the draft EIS.
Debate over whether a 34-mile road should be constructed, at a cost of nearly $600 million, dates to World War II when an agreement was signed, in 1943, between the Department of the Interior, the State of North Carolina, Swain County North Carolina, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Under terms of this “1943 Agreement”, a new road to replace NC 288, which was flooded during construction of TVA’s Fontana Dam, would be built if Congress appropriated the funding.
In the 1960s the Park Service constructed approximately 7 miles of the road before abandoning the effort due to environmental impacts and engineering problems. No further federal funding was received for the road until 2001 when $16 million was appropriated to resume work on the project, triggering the current EIS process.