The National Blueway designation for the White River evaporated last Wednesday as U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the designation would be rescinded.
The announcement comes because many in the area opposed the designation because they believe it could infringe on property rights for land owners. U.S. Sen. John Boozman and Rep. Rick Crawford were among those who opposed the designation and had sent a letter to Jewell with concerns with the designation and seeking answers regarding opt-out eligibility for states. “We all agree that we should work to protect our waterways, but a new federal Blueway program is not necessary to improve the cooperation of federal and state agencies on the management of the White River. This designation occurred without a formal process – no public comment, lack of transparency from the federal government and without the broad support of Arkansans. We are happy to see that Secretary Jewell reviewed the program and heard the concerns of our citizens,” Boozman said. “I am pleased Secretary Jewell has heard the voice of the people of Arkansas’ First District in her decision to rescind the National Blueway designation for the White River. This designation, conducted without input from local leaders nor sufficient detail as to the private property implications of its implementation, was roundly rejected by citizens back home. I am proud to have been able to represent their voice on this matter,” said Crawford. Not all were opposed to the designation however. According to the Arkansas Citizens First Congress, the Blueway designation would have simply provided resources for partnerships between landowners, businesses, organizations, and public agencies to develop conservation efforts throughout the White River Watershed. "Duck hunting and trout fishing enthusiasts would benefit from additional resources for the state to keep the river healthy and beautiful. Local economies would benefit from resources to fund new fish hatcheries, erosion prevention efforts, and other programs that would create jobs. The state would receive over $22 million in funding from the USDA, much of which would go to efforts to restore damage caused by last year’s drought." In a letter to Sec. Jewell several representatives said, "Many local elected leaders in affected counties have expressed their opposition to the White River designation, due to concerns that it could lead to increased regulatory activity and threats to private property rights. Others have emphasized that conservation should be locally led, not driven by “Secretarial Orders” out of Washington. The White River designation likely increases regulatory attention throughout the watershed, using existing authorities." The letter was signed by U.S. Senators John Boozman (AR) and Roy Blunt (MO), along with U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-01), Tim Griffin (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03), Tom Cotton (AR-04), Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), Billy Long (MO-07), and Jason Smith (MO-08).