Construction, operation and maintenance of SWEPCO’s Shipe Road – Kings River Project transmission will cause irreparable harm to the economy of Northwest Arkansas in particular and the economy of the state as a whole. As noted by Richard Davies, Director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the members of the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission:
“The scenic quality of Arkansas, and especially the area this line would cross, is the number one reason people visit our state, spending $5.7 billion in 2012. … Although the [State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission] is not in the position to establish the need for this project, they are chagrined by the impact it would have on one of the most scenic and historic areas in Arkansas.”
Every industry requires raw materials. If an industry’s raw materials become too scarce or poor in quality, the industry will collapse. The natural beauty of the Ozark Highlands is our `raw material’ and it is essential to the tourism industry of Northwest Arkansas in particular and the state as a whole. Tourism is the second largest industry in Arkansas, with nearly $6 billion/year in tourist spending, 60,000 jobs with $1.1 billion in salaries, and more than $500 million in state and local taxes (See Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism Annual Report 2013).
In his recent summary presentation, “The Impact of Tourism and Hospitality in Arkansas,” Dr. Robert Harrington points out that the tourism industry in Arkansas has a total economic impact of $8.42 billion. In Northwest Arkansas, the tourism industry has a total economic impact of $1.1 billion, generating direct revenues per capita of $1574.87 in Northwest Arkansas and $6283.73 in Carroll County. According to Dr. Harrington, the hospitality and leisure job sector was “among the fastest growing sectors” in Northwest Arkansas with a 33.3% growth during 2007-2013.
The scenic beauty of the Ozarks will be permanently and irreversibly disfigured if SWEPCO is allowed to build its massive 50-60 mile long, 345 kV transmission line. The number of tourists who seek natural beauty will diminish and the area’s economy will shrink accordingly. Economic damage caused by the transmission line will be most notable in eastern Benton County and western Carroll Counties, where the economy is based almost entirely on tourism and where the impacts of SWEPCO’s project on the area’s scenic beauty will be most dramatic.
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