Letters: Protect private property rights along the Nolichucky

Johnson City Press • Jul 21, 2019 at 5:00 AM

Our Question of the Week asked readers whether the Nolichucky River gorge should be federally protected. Here are some of the responses we received:

Protect private property rights

Those seeking a National Wild Scenic River designation for the Nolichucky River should realize and acknowledge that with the exception of the CSX railroad right of way, which occupies the east bank of the river in the Nolichucky gorge, already affords strict protections by the U.S. Forest Service.

Since the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forest boundaries encompass the majority of the the Nolichucky Gorge between Poplar, N.C., and Erwin, there is no need for a highly restrictive NWSR designation which would not only affect farmers but property owners such as myself who own property on Nolichucky River feeder streams.

We are already burdened by highly manipulative existing federal and state regulations, and a NWSR designation would further erode private property rights.

And maybe dams on the Nolichucky isn’t such a bad idea.

Johnson City

Boost the river’s national attraction

Should the Nolichucky Gorge be federally protected? Yes! It should, it is really surprising to me that it is not already protected. The stretch of river concerning this flow from Poplar, N.C., to Chestoa, TN. This section of river is already federally-protected because it is within the Cherokee National Forest. It is not feasible for the government to want to protect the river further downstream from Chestoa due to the town of Erwin and the private properties located on the river all the way to where it ends at the French Broad River at Douglas Lake.

The Nolichucky Gorge is already well known within the Southeastern paddling community and by earning a Wild & Scenic River designation that will only help to boost this river's attraction nationally while also helping Erwin's economy. As one of the few free-flowing rivers left, the Nolichucky is a prime candidate for this designation and the benefits of such designation far outweigh any negatives.

Piney Flats

This Letter to Forum covers a different topic of importance to one of our readers:

Unintended consequences

Recently, the Johnson City Press published a guest commentary by Dr. Landon Combs, a regional physician representative for the Tennessee Medical Association Board of Trustees. As a former TMA president, I’m writing to both support and add to Dr. Combs assertions regarding ending “surprise billing” — where patients receive unexpected medical bills due to payment disputes between insurance companies and providers — and making sure we do so in a way that doesn’t harm doctors or patients.

Dr. Combs is correct that the approach used in Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019 is the wrong way to go. As he notes, this “benchmarking” approach “may address the symptom but not the root cause of surprise bills and actually drive up healthcare costs with some unintended consequences.” I agree and would add that these “unintended consequences” would include doctors and hospitals receiving inadequate compensation, increasing an already troubling trend of provider consolidation, which would likely translate into less access and choice for patients.

Thankfully, there is an equitable way to end surprise billing without resorting to benchmarking. Independent Dispute Resolution would also get patients out from the middle of provider-insurer disputes, but in a way that encourages fair negotiations between these providers and insurers. IDR is included in two bills currently before Congress, the STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act in the Senate and the Protecting People from Surprise Medical Bills Act in the House, the latter sponsored by Tennessee’s own Doctor-Congressman Phil Roe, a fierce and laudable advocate for doctors and patients.

It is critical that whatever legislative vehicle is used to address the surprise billing issue that it includes the IDR framework outlined in these two bills. Absent such a provision, we may save patients from surprise billing, but hurt doctors and patients alike in the process.

Vice Chief of Staff, Erlanger Health Systems


Want to have your voice heard? Send a Letter to the Forum. Authors must sign their letters and include addresses and phone numbers for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length. Send your submission to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717 or [email protected]



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