“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” – Thomas Paine, American Crisis, 1776
Thomas Paine could literally move people to action with only quill and ink. It is not an overstatement to assert his pamphlets helped to solidify the idea of an independent America and spurred many colonists to action during what Paine called the American Crisis.
Today, here in Blount County, there is a cause brewing that needs someone like old Tom to rally folks to action. Unfortunately, I’m not Tom. All I can do is present what I know and let your conscience decide.
A river runs through this county, the Locust Fork. It also runs through the hearts of many. Its wild, untamed waters are the source of life for a lot of critters and plants. It’s also a source of joy for many people who come to refresh their bodies in its cool waters or their souls in its beauty.
Now, there is a potential threat to the river. Tyson Foods, Inc. has a pending application before the Alabama Department of Environmental Management that, if passed as written, will allow the company to discharge its treated waste water directly into the Locust Fork River. It currently flows into Graves Creek.
To be fair, Tyson officials sent a letter informing ADEM that the company has abandoned the plan to move the discharge point. Despite this, the application remains unchanged. If approved as written, Tyson could at some point in the future follow through with the company’s original plan without so much as a “by your leave,” to borrow a phrase common in Paine’s era.
Members of the Friends of the Locust Fork River have other worries as well, not the least of which are better quality of the discharged water and stricter regulations and enforcement by ADEM. Given many people enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing in the river, those concerns are understandable.
Maybe, though, you’ve never put a line in the river. Maybe, like me, the closest you’ve ever gotten to a kayak is when you’ve walked by one in a store. Maybe you’ve never so much as dipped a big toe in the Locust Fork, let alone been baptized there. Perhaps you’ve never even given the river a casual glance when you’ve passed over it on a bridge. If all that is true, why should you care about this river? Simple economics.
The Locust Fork River is on several lists of the best places to kayak in Alabama. Kayakingadventure.com puts it in the top six in the state. Kayakers are drawn here from outside the county and outside the state. If you live in Blount County, you benefit because some of those people spend money here. They fill their vehicles with gasoline, they shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants, and maybe, stay at a local motel. Those purchases mean employers can hire Blount Countians whose salaries help the local economy.
All that spending means more taxes are collected that go into the coffers of local governments, which in turn uses the revenue to make life better for local residents. Everyone who lives in this county benefits from a clean, safe river.
FLFR leaders continue to ask for letters of support and photos of the river. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be presented at an ADEM hearing about the permit application on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m., at American Legion Post 129, 1148 College Street, Blountsville. FLFR invites you to attend the meeting and speak if you want about the river’s importance to the community. To learn more about the permit and FLFR’s response go to www.friendsofthelocustforkriver.org.
I’ve written a lot about this in the last month because the potential for harm to the river is too great not to, but I don’t know what else I can say to convince you to get involved. My quill is dull and my ink almost exhausted. I leave it to your judgement. Is this a cause worth the simple acts of penning a letter or attending a meeting? Or perhaps the better question is this, if this cause is not worthy of your action, what is?