For immediate release, August 8, 2005
DILLARD, Georgia — Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-9th, today (August 8) took a somewhat neutral stand regarding the proposed Interstate highway that would cut through north Georgia and Southern Appalachia on its way from Savannah to Knoxville.
First, he wants to see the results of a federal study of the proposed Interstate, he told an audience of about 70 area residents at a public breakfast meeting in Dillard. “So, I’m not sure if I’m for it or against it at this point,” he said.
At the same time. Norwood, one of the prime architects of the push for the so-called Interstate 3, said he would ultimately “support the majority of people in my district” regarding this proposed highway.
“I’m telling you the people of this district may be favoring it,” Norwood also said. “Everybody wants it from Savannah to Augusta. The only place I have to concern myself is north of Toccoa.”
The $1-plus million study, he said, would take some 18 to 24 months to complete, after which he would revisit the issue and again take the pulse of his district, which stretches from northeast Georgia to the Augusta area.
Lucy Ezzard Bartlett, a spokeswoman for the Rabun Chapter of the Stop I-3 Coalition, was not overly pleased with the congressman’s stance.
“The concern is that the congressman is telling us one thing here in north Georgia today, while the study will be bent on proving that it should be built,” she said after the meeting. “The study is to be done by the Department of Transportation. Who is going to protect our environment from an Interstate through the Southern Appalachians? Who will protect our air quality and our water quality? These are major concerns of all people, not just those who live in the mountains.”
About 70 area residents from Rabun County and neighboring locales attended the breakfast. About 30 of them were recognizably opposed to the I-3 proposals, judging from the homemade, anti-I-3 name tags they wore. The congressman fielded about 10 questions on the proposed Interstate, with only one of those, from a local Republican party official, echoing the GOP party line about how everyone should wait for the results of the study.
Norwood also attended a meeting in Towns County today, where he largely echoed the stand taken in Dillard.
“It’s disappointing that now we’ll have to wait one-to-two years for a study, which we hope will confirm what we already know — that it makes no sense to build an interstate through these mountains,” said Janet McCallen, of Hiawassee, the I-3 Chair for the Towns County Homeowners Association.
McCallen also asked Norwood how citizens “could have input into the study.”
“The congressman replied: ‘You can’t,'” McCallen continued. “But we don’t intend to let up on our efforts to communicate the destructive impact an interstate would have on our community, our economy, our environment, and our quality of life.”
The proposed Interstate is strongly opposed in Towns County by the homeowners association, as well as in Habersham, White and Rabun counties, where local board of commissioners already have taken strong public stands against running this highway through the mountains.
The STOP I-3 coalition was organized in response to congressional I-3 proposals, on grounds that there are numerous economic, environmental, and safety concerns that urge against running such a huge highway through mountain communities that neither want nor need such an Interstate. Locals residents and local chapters have banded together under the STOP I-3 coalition from the following locales: Oconee County, S.C.; Stephens, Habersham, White, Rabun, Towns, Union and Lumpkin counties, Georgia; Jackson, Macon, Clay, Cherokee and Graham counties, North Carolina, as well as residents of the Maryville and Knoxville, Tennessee, areas. In addition, a dozen community and conservation groups support the Coalition.
Lucy Ezzard Bartlett