AMERICAN HERITAGE RIVERS INITIATIVE
COURT CHALLENGE TO AHRI FAILS
The Supreme Court refused to consider the dismissal of a legal challenge to the American Heritage Rivers Initiative (AHRI) by four Congressional Republicans on March 6, 2000 reported ABCNEWS.com. The case was dismissed by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in July, 1999 because the individual members of Congress lacked standing to sue.
The Court of Appeals ruled that "The representative do not allege that the necessary majorities in Congress voted to block the AHRI. They cannot claim their votes were effectively nullified by the actions of the executive."
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AMERICAN HERITAGE RIVERS NAMED
On July 27, 1998 President Clinton amended his American Heritage Rivers Initiative Executive Order to allow him to name "up to 20" rivers rather that the ten originally provided for.
On July 30, he identified 14 rivers (or portions thereof) in 25 states. The Detroit River was the only river named in Michigan. The others are: Blackstone and Woonasquatucket (MA, RI), Connecticut (CT, MA NH, VT), Cuyahoga (OH), Hanalei (HI), Hudson (NY), Upper Mississippi (IL, IA, MN, MO, WI), Lower Mississippi (LA, TN), New River (NC, VA, WV), Potomac River (DC, MD, PA, VA, WV), Rio Grande (TX), St. Johns (FL), Upper Susquehanna and Lackawanna (PA), and Willamette (OR).
The Detroit River development plan is in 5 parts with more to be added. Each of these plans is extremely long and take over 2 hours each to download from the government website -- making them virtually inaccessible in this form. For those of you who have more patience and perhaps a faster computer, you can obtain them by accessing the American Heritage River Initiative Website. (Click here.)
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ANOTHER ILLEGAL SECRET PANEL
Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) attempted to address the Clinton hand-picked panel which is supposed to be designating the rivers which will be chosen for the American Heritage Rivers Initiative. The panel did not allow members of Congress or the public to address the group and forced Chenoweth to make her comments behind closed door.
Chenoweth told the group: "This process violates every federal public meeting law on the books. If you choose to proceed, you're choosing to proceed illegally, and you're going to embarrass yourselves. . . . Remember the President's federal advisory panel on health care, it ended in disaster and embarrassment because it was carried out just like this meeting -- in secret and without public input. Like the health care proposal, the proposal will be just as broad-sweeping and devasting to our nation. Both would benefit from the light of day, but will go down in infamy without public input."
Forty-six rivers and river segments have been "opted-out" by their members of Congress. The meeting, which was "facilitated" by Jerry DelliPriscoli of the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. representative to UNESCO (a UN Commission to which the U.S. does NOT belong ) started the day with 32 prospects and ended with about the same number -- although not necessarily the same ones. While the local officials who backed the plan were told that the main advantage would be federal funds, the committee is concentrating on environmental controls. The "facilitator" will shortly be attending a UNESCO meeting in Moscow to work on world-wide water issues.
This is a project that is totally without Congressional approval and will put these rivers under the control of a federally appointed "river navigator" who answers only to 14 separate federal agencies and departments.
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AHR CASE DISMISSED
According to Liberty Matters, USDistrict Judge Henry Kennedy (a Clinton appointee) dismissed the lawsuit filed by House Resources Committee Chair Don Young (R-AK), Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) and other members of the committee to stop Cinton's American Heritage Rivers program. The lawsuit had alleged that the executive order creating the program interfered with zoning powers of local authorities in violation of the 10th amendment and created and unconstitutional intrusion into private property rights. The judge said the legislators did not have standing to file the lawsuit and that their rights had not yet been violated. William Perry Pendley, director of Mountain States Legal Foundation, who represented Young and the others said he plans to appeal the case.
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has been setting up meeings to promote the program around the country. In one such move, the environmental group, Riverlink, set up and advertised 3 "debates" with Congressman Charles Taylor and Westley Warren of CEQ to address the Conressman's "concerns" about the nomination of the French Broad River in North Carolina. However, Taylor's office had not been invited or notified. In a letter to Katy McGinty (head of the AHR Initiative), Taylor states, "either you have used appropriated funds to underwrite your agency's PR campaign . . . or perhaps your organization is unwittingly being dragged into a series of false statements that serve a political purpose. The first option may well be illegal and the second exhibits an alarming degree of incompetence." Taylor also sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting an investigarion of improper expenditures of appropriated tax dollars.
In a related story, CEQ took its dog and pony show to Montana in the first week of March, perhaps in an effort to re-educate Senator Conrad Burns, an opponent of the initiative. The meeting, staged at the Yellowston Heritage Center, was a disaster for the promoters of AHRI designation as the audience that showed up was overwhelmingly against the designation.
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SIX MICHIGAN RIVERS NOMINATED
On December 22, 1997, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) published a list of 169 nominations of rivers, creeks, water systems, or portions of these for designation under the American Heritage Rivers (AHR) Initiative. A complete list of all of these is available on the USEPA website. Click here
In Michigan, the nominations are the Detroit River, Grand River, Kalamazoo River, Muskegon River, St. Joseph River, and St. Mary's River.
Ten of these nominations will be chosen for designation in 1998 and Clinton will begin implementing his watershed management scheme thereafter.
Liberty Matters reports that on Wednesday, December 10, 1997 Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Bob Schaffer (R-CO) represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation and Perry Pendley, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., contending that the president has no legal authority to implement in Initiative and that it violates federal land-management policies enacted by Congress.
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AMERICAN HERITAGE RIVERS INITIATIVE
The American Heritage Rivers (AHR) Initiative was introduced by President Clinton by Executive order on September 11, 1997. These were first announced in his State of the Union address on February 4, 1997.
So far, three Michigan rivers have been mentioned as possible nominees, the St. Joe, the Detroit and the AuSable. When a river is designated, not only the river but all of its tributaries fall within the designation. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is supposed to develop a procedure for designating and establishing goals for the rivers.
The CEQ is composed of the following federal departments: Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the humanities. During discussions on this program, the EPA said a "caseworker" would be assigned to each AHR project. That term was changed to "River Navigator" when the Executive Order was issued. This single person who will be in charge of the entire watershed will "communicate goals and needs and . . . facilitate community-agency interchange."
Au Sable River Watershed ---9 Counties.....................................Au Gres-Rifle Watershed --- 4 Counties
The above maps show the extent of the watersheds of the Au Sable and the Au Gres-Rifle Rivers according to the EPA. For additional information about these rivers, click on the image of the map.
While these designations are only supposed to take place with broad-based community support, those who have been involved with other Federal designations (such as the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena, Alcona and Presque Isle Counties -- see the Archives for additional information) are concerned that the desires of the local communities will not be paramount in the designation process.
Congressman Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) in speeches from the floor cited the need for Congress to question the purpose of the AHR Initiative. She, with eleven other Congressmen introduced HR 1842 which would prohibit the Clinton Administration from spending federal funds for the Initiative. She held a hearing on September 24 on her proposal.
Congressman Don Young, (R-Alaska), Chairman of the House Committee on Resources, and four other committee chairmen also took a stand on the method in which this process was handled.
On September 18th, Senator Tim Hutchinson (R- Arkansas) introduced an amendment to the Department of Interior appropriation beill that would have required Congressional approval of any river designations by the President and consideration of comments on the designation from nearby property owners. This amendment was defeated when it was tabled by a vote of 57 to 42.
The Administration opposes all of these proposals which would allow Congressional input into the process. To see the American Heritage Rivers website, click here.
The Executive Order specifically prohibits any party from seeking judicial review "against the United States, its agencies or instrumentalities, its officers or employees, or any other person." It does not, however, prohibit the government from taking action against anyone.
According to Katie McGinty, Chair, Council of Environmental Quality, at the hearing held in the House Resources Committee on September 24, any Congressman or Senator will have the right to exercise a veto over the establishment of an AHR in his district. Local elected officials and citizen groups who oppose the designation should also pass resolutions against the proposal and identify the area over which they have jurisdiction and which is sought to be excluded.
Idaho has become the first state to request that none of their rivers are part of the American Heritage Rivers Initiative. Idaho's entire GOP delegation to Congress -- U.S. Senators Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne, as well as Representatives Helen Chenowith and Michael Crapo -- sent a letter to Kathleen McGinty to keep Idaho's rivers out of the initiative.
A spokesman for Rep. Chenoweth said that they expected the congressional delegations in Colorado and Texas to also opt out of the initiative.
Liberty Matters, a grass roots private property rights organization, has additional information on its website relating to this Initiative as well as sample forms for objecting to the designation. To visit their website, click here.
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