For immediate release, August 4, 2005

The White County (Ga.) Board of Commissioners on Tuesday evening Aug. 2, 2005 unanimously declared its opposition to a federal proposal to build Interstate 3 through their locale.

The three Commissioners each spoke to a courthouse full of White Co. citizens who turned out to oppose the interstate. They are also drafting a letter to their Congressmen stating their opposition. Some ten speakers, including District 8 State Rep. Charles Jenkins, spoke against building this huge highway through the mountains and in support of the STOP 1-3 Coalition’s position. Rep. Jenkins told the Commissioners, “We don’t want an interstate through the North Georgia mountains.” Jenkins also said he had talked with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson who told him, “If the people of North Georgia don’t want that road, then you’re not going to have it.”

White County becomes the third county in northeast Georgia to officially declare its opposition to this new road. Commissioners in Habersham and Rabun County previously voiced their concern and opposition to an interstate which, they say, their constituents neither need nor want.

The interstate at issue, dubbed “Interstate 3” by its supporters, would cut through the mountains of north Georgia on its way from Savannah to Knoxville (via Augusta). Under federal legislation embodied in the recently passed federal highway spending bill, the federal Department of Transportation is required to study the feasibility of costs and possible routes for this interstate. Funding, originally $400,000 was more than tripled by U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood to $1.3 million.

Opponents contend this study is nothing but the first step to fast-tracking a vast roadway, with a right-of-way perhaps as wide as three and one-third football fields. They say cutting such a destructive swath would devastate protected mountain and forest areas and diminish economic bases for recreational tourism and small local businesses (see two “Economic Effects” white papers at Long-time local residents as well as seasonal visitors, Appalachian Trail hikers, and area retirees are joining forces based on their outrage at the I-3 proposal.

STOP I-3 Coalition Chairperson Elizabeth Wells, spoke for the group, composed of people from four states and representatives from an increasing number of counties and citizen organizations opposed to I-3:

“We in the White County STOP I-3 Coalition are delighted with our County Commissioners’ vote to oppose Interstate 3, not only for White County but for surrounding counties as well.

“We are most appreciative that our commissioners have taken time to familiarize themselves with this issue and vote for unanimous opposition. They have shown courage to stand strong in their convictions on this matter, joining the commissioners in Habersham and Rabun Counties. They have made us proud,” said Dr. Wells.

“We thank our Representative in the Georgia Legislature, Charles Jenkins, who joined all the concerned, diligent folks here in White County to support our Commissioners’ stand. Now we move on to host the Regional STOP I-3 Coalition Meeting on August 23rd at 6 PM at White County High School,” she concluded.

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.

Local 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.

Elizabeth Wells,