U.S. Congressman LOUIE GOHMERT: Proudly Serving the First District of Texas

 

Press Releases

Gohmert Will Not Pursue Caddo Lake National Heritage Act

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Washington, July 24, 2018 | comments
Congressman Louie Gohmert (TX-01) released the following statement regarding his decision to no longer pursue legislation to create a National Heritage Area near Caddo Lake:

"When first considering whether or not to join the effort to designate parts of the Caddo Lake area as a National Heritage Area, I was skeptical. As soon as I heard the term “National Heritage Area,” I immediately became suspicious that there may be federal strings that are put on local, private or public land. I have seen that happen in the instance of a “Wild and Scenic River” designation. Yet, after many months of research, I found no such strings in the Heritage Area designation. 

The “National Heritage Area” terminology creates a legal designation that allows public, governmental, or private foundation money to flow into an area to improve the economy and enjoyment of the area, with the recognition of a national title of its historic lineage, while allowing for control to remain in local hands. 

As always, I do not presume to force anything on a county where I am their federal servant, but I do think it is helpful to let a community know about these potential opportunities.  For example, after I was elected, the Base Realignment and Closure “BRAC” commission decided the Department of Defense no longer needed the former Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant. Some local leaders believed that if Harrison County could receive 1,000-1,500 acres of that land, it could be used to bring in a huge clean industry that would provide more local opportunities and have a burgeoning economic effect. 

That land was near Caddo Lake, and no one had wanted to see that lake water dirtied. There have actually been lakes that have been cleaned by industry coming in and agreeing that any water it used would be put back cleaner than it was when taken out. That land had formerly been known as the Thiokol Corporation property, where many thousands of Harrison County citizens had worked at one time.

It seemed like a great opportunity to help schools and the people of Harrison County. It was going to be an uphill battle to get the land for Harrison County, but I was not about to do something the people of Harrison County did not want done with their own land. 

Back then, Harrison County residents were assured by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife that if U.S. Fish and Wildlife got the land, it would mean an economic bonanza. Tourism would boom. That presentation apparently carried the day.  When the County Commissioners voted not to support the effort to try to secure the land for the local community’s use and control, I no longer tried to pursue it on their behalf. I absolutely will not pursue any federal action regarding land in Harrison County that Harrison County does not want.  

People living in the potential Heritage area in Louisiana have been particularly vociferous in opposition to the proposal, and it seems they have not given fair consideration to the possible benefits. As a result, both Louisiana’s U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy and U.S. Representative Mike Johnson are pulling their effort to examine further the possible benefits.  

The people of Harrison County were willing to engage in a productive dialogue about the pros and cons of a potential designation. While many constituents raised concerns with the idea, I cannot adequately convey how much it means to me to have so many people have enough faith in me that they were willing to wait and hear the whole story, cordially discuss their concerns with my office, and offer suggested amendments, before deciding whether to pursue it or not. I also want to thank the Marshall News Messenger for being open to the discussion without pre-judgement. 

We had continued to work on language that would have further ensured that the federal government could never use the Heritage Area designation to do anything the actual landowners, private and public, did not want done. We could be certain that such a proposed law did not allow any strings and included that language in what we drafted. However, it could not be said with 100% certainty that some future Congress might not try to add strings, so I prepared language to allow unilateral withdrawal from the Heritage area, without needing the federal government’s permission, if the federal government or Heritage Area Commission ever did anything that had an undesirable effect on the land, the landowners, or any aspect of the local enjoyment or use. That would have been enforceable if anything unwanted had ever been attempted. We also were going to cut the size of the proposed area significantly and only include land that the owners wanted in the Heritage Area. 

However, Sen. Cassidy and Rep. Johnson’s withdrawal from any effort to pursue financial benefits to what would have been the Caddo Lake National Heritage Area occludes any further inquiry into this matter. Since Louisiana had more land that would have been included in the potential Heritage Area and they are withdrawing, it does not make sense for us to pursue it. This matter will be closed until or unless the people I represent who would be affected tell me that they want the issue of a National Heritage Area designation pursued again. Thank you for the chance to represent your wishes."
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