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11th Dct. reps team up on 'Road to Nowhere' logjam

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and the representative he replaced are joining forces in an effort to persuade the Interior Department to release $4 million the government promised Swain County when it killled the controversial "road to nowhere."

Meadows and for Rep. Heath Shuler, who represented the 11th Congressional District from 2006 until 2012, are both scheduled to testify Tuesday before the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation to urge it to pay Swain County funds allocated for the "Road to Nowhere."

Currently, the National Park Service is withholding $4 million that was allocated to Swain County back in 2012 as part of a settlement with the federal government over the road, which was supposed to be built in exchange for land the county conveyed land to the park service for Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1943. The road was never built. After years of off-and-on talks, the county reached a settlement in 2010 with the federal government, which agreed to pay Swain County $52 million. Shuler was instrumental in bringing the two sides together to cement the agreement.

The county received an initial payment but the National Park Service is holding $4 million allocated in 2012. The agency won't release the funds without a direct authorization from Congress.

"Due to government bureaucracy, the residents of Swain County are still waiting for funds that were allocated to their county two years ago," Meadows said in a statement. "I urge the Committee to move forward to a vote on the House floor to authorize these funds be released as was promised."

"The U.S. Department of Interior has been shortchanging the residents of Swain County over the North Shore Road since 1943," Shuler said in a statement. "Congress approved this funding in 2012 and it's time they direct these funds to Swain County as intended. I appreciate Rep. Meadow's efforts on this issue and inviting me to stand with him to serve Swain County before the Subcommittee. He has truly championed this cause since serving in Congress," he added.

"I'm grateful that Heath Shuler has agreed to testify on this issue, which I know he worked hard on during his time in Congress representing the people of North Carolina's 11th district," Meadows added.

Shuler defeated eight-term incumbent Charles Taylor in the 2006 change election that gave Democrats control of the House. Two years later, Republicans won control of the North Carolina Legislature. After they redrew the 11th District lines to all but ensure a Republican pickup, Shuler retired from the House. He's now vice president of federal affairs for Duke Energy, directing lobbying efforts out of Charlotte and Washington.