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Opinion: Columnists

Ron Arnold: Turning America's water into Big Green's elite empire

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Two weeks ago, outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar named the White River -- which cuts 722 miles through its 17.8 million-acre watershed, crossing 60 counties in Arkansas and Missouri -- as the second National Blueway.

What exactly, we should ask, is a National Blueway? In short, it's the focus of the biggest federal land grab in American history.

Physically, a National Blueway is an entire watershed, including its municipal, county and tribal governments, private property, businesses and everything else within the ridge line of the watershed. Consider the first Blueway, the 410-mile Connecticut River, along with its 7.2 million-acre watershed, which stretches into Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. It wouldn't take too many grabs like that for the federal government to control all the water in the nation.

Politically, a Blueway is a watershed that falls under a new bureaucracy, an intra-agency National Blueways Committee. The designation was created by Secretarial Order 3321 of May 24, 2012, signed by Salazar. The order says, "The National Blueways System will provide a new national emphasis on the unique value and significance of a 'headwaters to mouth' approach to river management and create a mechanism to encourage stakeholders to integrate their land and water stewardship efforts by adopting a watershed approach."

Salazar's vague "watershed approach" subverts the power of local governments, which now use various individually tailored "watershed management" techniques for their local water supply, water quality, drainage, stormwater runoff and water rights. Where did those go in Salazar's ghastly green goo?

The idea of using "network management" to cope with multifaceted water issues through a powerful master unit was first promoted in Europe by the World Water Council, a consortium founded in 1996 and based in Marseille, France. WWC members include the World Bank, the United Nations and major European corporations. The founders were well aware that "the implementation of any common vision presents a new role for NGOs because of their unique capabilities in local community coordination, thus making them a valuable partner in network governance," according to British environmental governance professor James Evans.

Which brings up the question of why Salazar created Blueways in the first place. No one is saying it aloud yet, but, having written previously on Salazar's ill-fated 2010 Wild Lands Secretarial Order, my instinct was to look for someone eager to be a "partner in network governance." I nominate Salazar's senior adviser, Rebecca R. Wodder.

Wodder was president and CEO of Big Green's American Rivers (current revenue $15.5 million) when President Obama nominated her in 2011 as assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks, a rank second only to Salazar's.

Her nomination stalled in the Senate after some of her quotes came to light, including, "I eat almost no beef or pork because of the amount of resources consumed in producing food via cattle or pigs, and because I object to factory farms." Other published sources exposed similar feelings about nearly every aspect of industrial society, particularly against shale gas hydraulic fracturing ("fracking").

Wodder's nomination soured completely when a tally appeared showing the millions that her American Rivers group was costing taxpayers in lawsuits to remove hundreds of dams, and colluding with agencies to impose draconian regulations on river use. Obama finally threw in the towel and withdrew her nomination.

Considering her American Rivers loyalty and her job at Interior as adviser instead of sub-Cabinet officer, would it be surprising if she dreamed up this new Blueway bureaucracy ("Wodder's Revenge")? In any event, this is precisely the sort of program that cries out to Congress to be revoked.

Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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