STUTTGART, Arkansas — Several Arkansas counties are opposing a federal designation that names the White River and its watershed part of the National Blueways System
The federal government announced earlier this year that the 700-mile river will be the second in the country to receive the designation. But since then, local governments have passed resolutions opposing the measure over concerns that it'll affect private property rights.
The National Blueways System is part of an Obama administration effort to establish a community-driven conservation and recreation agenda, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. The designation recognizes the partnerships that are working to conserve the river across its watershed.
But Arkansas County Judge Sonny Cox said there's concern the designation is an "attempt to manage our land and waterway without input through the designation."
"Basically, anytime you are going to change something that dramatically the public has to be notified and public meetings held," Cox said.
But Emily Beyer of the Interior Department told the Stuttgart Daily Leader (http://bit.ly/11GIi23 ) that the new designation carries no regulatory power.
"Partnership is entirely voluntary," Beyer said. "The National Blueways System is not regulatory nor does it impact private property rights or governmental authorities."
Arkansas County officials have approved a resolution to oppose the designation. Several other counties have done the same, including Boone, Cleveland and Lawrence counties.
Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the governor's office has discussed the issue with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. DeCample said the governor's office is confident the designation won't affect the rights of property owners.
Information from: The Stuttgart Daily Leader, http://www.stuttgartdailyleader.com/