September 24, 2003 - Posted at: 5:19 p.m. CDT
POCAHONTAS, Ark. -- An old debate is resurfacing in Randolph County, over a river described as possessing unique beauty.
One of the first debates happened more than fifty years ago, but both sides are sticking to the same points.
Mike Davis and Lee Gentry have lived along the banks of the Eleven Point River their entire lives. "This is home to us, and we just can't understand why someone would want to take our homes away from us," said Davis. Davis and other residents are concerned about an issue that stems back to the late 1950's. Back then, several businessmen in the county lobbied for the construction of a dam to be built along the river for economic purposes.
Ten years later, after much community uproar, the project was deauthorized by Congress, but that decision made it possible for the issue to resurface again today. "Just the suggestion of the Water Valley Dam has really brought fear back to them," said Davis.
Gentry is one of three men who went before the Pocahontas Chamber of Commerce last week to guage community interest. "We've got out of migration of jobs...our biggest factory has recently downsized significantly...so just for economic development reasons," said Gentry.
And just how much could a lake in Randolph County boost that area's economic development? Here's how the numbers stack up...last year, counties like Baxter and Sharp, that are known for their recreational lakes, brought in more income than Randolph County...numbers Gentry believes could escalate with a Water Valley Dam project. "Anytime there's progress, be it a highway coming through, or a large factory that needs land, there are people that need to sacrifice," added Gentry.
But residents like Davis say sacrificing this would be like losing a piece of their history. "We've lived here all our lives and have a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in these places and you can't replace that."