Interior Issues $35.2 Million Settlement to North Carolina County

Swain County settlement makes good on Administration’s prioritization of rural America, keeping promises to citizens

7/2/2018
Last edited 7/5/2018

Date: June 30, 2018
Contact: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov

WASHINGTON – Following through on the Trump Administration’s priorities of keeping promises to the American people and being a good neighbor, the U.S. Department of the Interior today honored a commitment made more than 70 years ago to residents of Swain County, North Carolina by way of a $35.2 million settlement. The announcement was made by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Senator Thom Tillis, Congressman Mark Meadows and local officials at an event at the Swain County Heritage Museum in Bryson City, North Carolina.

The settlement stems from a 1943 promise from the Federal Government to rebuild the 30-mile North Shore Road that was flooded to build the Fontana Dam.

“The Administration and the Department of the Interior will continue to ensure that promises made are kept—even ones made more than seven decades ago,” said Secretary Zinke. “Working with Senator Tillis, Senator Burr and Congressman Meadows to deliver this settlement today to the great people of Swain County truly illustrates our commitment to being a good neighbor and in ensuring that rural Americans are no longer forgotten.”

“Repaying the federal government’s obligations to Swain County has been my priority since I took office, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done alongside my colleagues and the Administration on a solution,” said Senator Thom Tillis. “Today represents the beginning of the end of Swain County’s long fight to receive the funds from the North Shore Road settlement. The Department of the Interior’s commitment to reimburse the $35.2 million and make good on the promise to repay Swain County is great news for the community and taxpayers.”

“Today is a long-awaited victory for the people of Swain County. When I arrived in Congress in 2013, on day one, my office began working with the Department of the Interior to see to it that the residents of Swain County receive the money they should have been paid long ago," said Congressman Mark Meadows. “Since he took office last year, President Trump’s administration and Secretary Ryan Zinke have shown an unparalleled commitment to making this situation right—and just as they committed, they are delivering. I want to thank the President, Secretary, and so many Swain County leaders who worked hard on this for years. This is a tremendous day for our community.”

“I’m glad to see that Secretary Zinke made it a priority of his to follow through on commitments the Department of the Interior made many years ago,” said Senator Richard Burr. “More than seven decades have passed since the federal government agreed to compensate Swain County for roads flooded during the building of the Fontana Dam. I thank Secretary Zinke for his attention on this important issue, and so do the residents of Swain County.”

“We would like to thank President Trump and his administration, particularly Secretary Zinke along with Senator Tillis, Senator Burr, Congressman Meadows and their staff for diligently working to bring closure to a long standing issue," said Swain County Chairman Phil Carson. “This has been a burden to the citizens of Swain County for 75 years and will help bring healing to our community.”

The government failed to deliver on the 1943 promise and in 2007 agreed to a cash settlement of $52 million. In 2010 the Department of the Interior, Swain County, the State of North Carolina and Tennessee Valley Authority entered into a “Memorandum of Agreement” to “settle any and all claims under the 1943 Agreement.” Until September 2017, the county had only received $12.8 million.

In September of 2017, Secretary Zinke released another $4 million to the county that had been previously appropriated, but had not been released. On June 6, 2018, the Secretary formally announced plans to close out the remaining $35.2 million settlement with the county.