In a letter sent today, members of the Arkansas and Missouri Congressional delegations asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to answer a series of questions concerning the Administration's designation of the White River as a National Blueway.
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).
"Our intention is to understand the Department's plans and activities associated with the [National Blueway System] NBS, and to find out whether there is an opt-out mechanism our states can use should they desire to exit the Blueways program," the letter states.
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 asks the Secretary to provide a detailed explanation regarding: (1) whether states can opt-out-out of the Blueways program, (2) how much the program costs and how the Department is paying for it, (3) the legal authority that the Administration is using to justify the unilateral creation of this program, (4) the alleged benefits of the program, and (5) the insufficient, closed-door review process that was used to justify the White River designation.
Finally, the letter recognizes that Secretary Jewell was recently confirmed as Interior Secretary, so the letter directly provides the Secretary an opportunity to review Department of Interior activities and comments on the Blueways program that occurred prior to her confirmation.