Tribe readies energy innovations and solves site-prep


By Tom Bennett

Special to Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition

Murphy, N.C., Jan. 9, 2015 – The Minneapolis-based design firm Cunningham Group Associates described for me in August 2014 the environmental features coming at the Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel near here:

  • Fresh outside air will be continuously brought in;
  • Light-emitting diode (LED) or compact fluorescent light (CFL) will be used and sensors will dim overhead lighting during the day to reduce energy use when natural light is available;
  • Resource wheels will transfer energy from the exhaust air back into the fresh-air supply and allow “very efficient mitigation of smoke and air-quality issues;” and
  • There will be natural-convection airflow with air delivery under the floor and removal of exhaust air at the ceiling level, reducing energy consumption by around 20 percent.

Sometime before July 11, 2014, “the utility plans that will serve the new casino (by 4D Engineering for Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise) and the R-5527B roadway plans (by Vaughn & Melton for N.C. Dept. of Transportation) were designed separately yet simultaneously,” a state official told me in December 2014. The Tribal Casino Gaming Enterpries (TCGE) fully corrected in time what the state official said was initial lack of coordination by designers of the sewage and freshwater pipes, but the error cost TCGE $628,994.

AS OF THIS DATE, there have been 59 total lot sales to buyers in seven states at the River Walk on the Hiwassee subdivision, according to Cherokee Co. public records.

Attorney William H. McKeever incorporated Harshaw Farms LLC on July 1, 2013 and fifteen days later it bought from 2010-1 RADC/CADE Property XVI LLC of Leawood, Kansas some 371.78 acres of county land on Harshaw Road south of Murphy for $2,250,000. This well-traveled property belonged at least in 2007 to a Hiwassee River Holdings LLC of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

It’s now a rare post-boom subdivision undertaking upon the south bank of, and also some verdant upland above, a stretch of the Hiwassee River not impounded for any lake. At the lowest point near the water, there essentially would be beach-like homes on stilts in the rich black alluvial soil once worked by Harshaw family slaves.

FRONT-YARD EYESORES abound in a county that has a toothless ordinance. At an Oct. 2014 Cherokee Co. board of commissioners’ candidate debate, the Republican Dan Eichenbaum said: “To see junk cars in front yards is one of the charms of country living.” Then on Nov. 4, Eichenbaum won the District 4 seat on the board for the next four years with 1,470 votes.

THE 18-YEAR TOTAL weighed at landfill scales after “Big Sweep” clean-ups of Hiwassee Lake is at 92 tons. Volunteer leader Sam Davis needs more participants and shallow-draft pontoon boats. At the 22-mile-long lake, tenacious volunteers were able to spear only shoreline trash at tie-ups within sight of the Hanging Dog Campground boat ramp jump-off point during the Sept. 2014 sweep.

THE N.C. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION released a list of highway projects in July 2014 dropping federal Corridor K, the proposed A-9 from near Andrews to Stecoah, to a “statewide mobility qualitative score” of only 15.72 out of 100.

In Tennessee, a Nov. 2014 TDOT “white paper” also terming itself an environmental impact statement for proposed Corridor K through the Ocoee River gorge conceded on page 9 that “numerous unknowns still exist.”

SUPPORTERS DAVID WOOD and Lorraine Meltz now are gone from a five-member board of commissioners that voted in July 2014 to deny the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition’s modest request for $5,000 in operating support funds for fiscal year 2014-15. For the commissioners to do so amid the water-quality issues looming here borders on sheer madness.

Tom Bennett of the Martins Creek community near Murphy, N.C., is a retired newsman, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition member/volunteer/donor and recipient of the 2015 Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award. E-mail him at