In our local power line debacle it appears that at least for now we have AEP/SWEPCO on the run. The Judge approved only the portion of the power line that would be in Arkansas, and the power company would have to run through regulatory hurdles in Missouri that they are admittedly unprepared for. They are not licensed to do business in Missouri. They cannot possibly catch Missouri residents unprepared for battle, and due to the work of our small environmental organization Save the Ozarks, we managed to make certain that residents of Missouri are well informed. We are preparing for appeal of the ruling anyway because the judge would let stand the slip-shod way in which such issues are addressed in Arkansas. The cozy relationship between the power companies and the regulatory agency spells possible disaster for citizenry and the environment.
With some citizens finally being confident that we can really achieve what everyone told us we could not... stop a power company hungry for power transmission profits from destroying our homes and properties... we have been asked if we will write a basic guide so that others can do what we appear to have done.
Note to readers: The game isn't over. AEP/SWEPCO is one of those profitable companies that is not dependent on the good will of customers for its success. SWEPCO may appeal the judge's ruling and may end up using one of the routes that the judge denied, or the commission itself may overrule the judge, choose its own solution and allow the power company to go with its original plans. We are not happy dancing down Spring St. That would be premature.So, I am beginning to call this guide, Rock County Almanac, in homage to Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac, 1949, that had such a profound effect on the environmental movement. Whether or not this leads to something more, and whether or not AEP/SWEPCO is actually defeated, or just quietly engineering its next monstrous case of malfeasance, the Rock County Almanac is rooted in the karst terrane and limestone rocks of the Ozarks. Here, the underlying rock layers are pitted and scoured like Swiss cheese. The soil is thin over the chert and limestone. Water that can rarely be depended on is forced out from between rock layers as springs, some large and some scarcely a trickle. And hard scrabble farmers having given up on corn and cows simply farm the rocks that keep springing up in their pastures and sell them for building walls and patios for the rich and near famous.
An early Arkansas writer, John Gould Fletcher, had written to my artist friends Louis and Elsie Freund in the 1950s that there was wasn't much happening in Eureka Springs, but it sure was laid out pretty, and so with tourism, pretty became our only cash crop. As one local had said in our public hearing over the SWEPCO debacle, "You can't eat pretty, but here, without pretty, we don't eat."
And so there is something remarkable and poetic about the beauty of place, and those that gather for the sake of that beauty. When we are connected with each other out of concern for beauty, and unleash our own powers of poetry, we are far stronger than some would expect. Not being the idiot locals AEP/SWEPCO seem to have been prepared for, folks read the environmental impact statement, sorted through it with their fine toothed combs, adopted a tone of moral outrage and nailed SWEPCO on very real charges of attempting to simply crank their massive power line though what they thought were defenseless hill folks.
As I say, it is an interesting case... One first built upon the Swiss cheese of our rugged karst terrane, and the challenges folks found in crafting successful lives in rock county. We've become hard as the rocks ourselves when someone wants to mess with the beauty of this place.