Should the Nolichucky gorge be federally protected?

Johnson City Press • Jul 15, 2019 at 12:35 PM

Concerns about private property rights have slowed a proposal to place federal protections on a waterway in our area.

As reported last week by Press staff writer Sue Legg, the Unicoi County Commission’s Rafting, Tourism and Economic Development Committee voted to table a request for support of a federal Wild and Scenic River designation for the Nolichucky River gorge between Poplar, North Carolina, and Erwin when farmers and private property owners objected.

Many of the farmers worried the federal designation meant to protect the free-flowing river would restrict their abilities to use their land for agriculture by limiting fertilizer runoff into the Nolichucky's many tributaries.

Supporters of the designation drive, mainly outdoor recreation experts and tourism boosters, said the designation is intended to keep dams from being built on the wild river and would not affect the its feeders.

They said keeping the river untouched could bring millions of dollars to the communities along the river and would protect an important natural resource for generations.

Gaining a Wild and Scenic River designation is a lengthy process that requires an act of Congress, which is usually helped by demonstrating local support. That's why the plan's supporters turned to Unicoi County officials for an affirmation.

Since the designation has both supporters and detractors, we wanted to gauge your opinions.

Should the Nolichucky gorge section be designated a wild river?

Send your correspondence to [email protected] Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length.

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