The civilian branch of the Army Corps on Engineers embodies everything wrong with government. It builds projects of dubious value, it is arrogant, it wastes taxpayer money, and yet it continues to receive the support of Congress members who can point to federal dollars coming into their districts to build unnecessary dams and “flood control” projects.
I’ll admit I have a personal bias, and I just realized this posting might have to be divided into two parts to get everything out. The Corps was the agency that built the Beltzville Dam. Our farm, which supported three families, went from 460 acres to 29 acres, and my Dad, a lifetime farmer, became a hired hand at a chicken farm, then a plumber’s helper, and finally a janitor. He watched while our farm buildings were bulldozed and burned and the Wild Creek flooded.
Actually, not one of our fields was flooded. They became part of the “park.” Within a decade of the fields being seized under eminent domain, they were rented out for farming. (By that point in time all our farm equipment had been sold at auction and the Christman Brothers were not able to rent back our fields.)
The price offered for the farm was minimal--$200 an acre. (This was in 1967, but that was still a very low offer.) After a battle in federal court, the Christman Brothers were awarded approximately $800 an acre, although I should point out that the attorney received approximately 1/3 of that amount.
The representatives from the Corps who dealt with the local farmers were arrogant, imperious, and so out of touch with the local residents that they even mis-named the project as “Beltzville,” a non-existent village on Route 209.
Today the land in Beltzville State Park is not owned by the state. It is still under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps. In the Nineties I started an abortive campaign to have the Corps turn the land over to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, but I never had much support.
And while I have had some good relations with Beltzville Corps managers, (Bob Greene springs to mind), when I recently stopped in to get the Corps’ support against the PennEast Pipeline, the phrase “blown off” comes to mind.
OK, I need two posts. Upcoming: The Corps an environmental agency, why DCNR is so much better, a look at the Corps’ threat to pallid sturgeon, and why I really like the Cato Institute’s study of the Corps.