We’ve had a string of cold, clear days. How cold they have seemed has depended on the wind, but this morning we had about 28 degrees on the deck. The sunrise this morning was particularly colorful, making me glad I was up early making coffee to see it.
The Geminid meteor shower is expected to peak just before dawn on Dec. 14. NASA predicts a “peak rate of 100 to 120 meteors per hour.” Fannin County is still one of the darkest areas in the southeast, although Polk County, TN, just to the north, is darker overall. If you are looking for a spectacular location to view the sky, visit Buck Bald, off Highway 68 near the intersection of Polk and Monroe counties.
There has been a significant development in the Corridor K project in Tennessee. This is the proposed project to either improve Highway 64 between Ducktown and Benton/Old Fort or build a new road through the Cherokee National Forest. For environmental reasons, the idea of improving the road through the Ocoee Gorge seems preferable to building a new one – whether two or four lanes – through the National Forest, but it has seemed that building a new one has been the favored alternative. Last week, TDOT announced that they are adding a new alternative to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is now due in winter of 2016. This new alternative is either two tunnels or one long tunnel from TN 30 at Greasy Creek to the Whitewater Center. (Some news reports stated that it would end at Ocoee #3, but it appears from the white paper that this is an error, that it will end near Ocoee #2.) The white paper is available here:
As always, the devil is in the details. The option of two shorter tunnels leaves beautiful Goforth Creek in danger, as it would have to be traversed by a bridge. The option of one longer tunnel – going under Goforth – seems preferable as it would preserve the most beautiful creek in the Gorge (and maybe in the Cherokee National Forest). On the face of it, either option seems preferable to building a new road, although it would obviously raise the cost of this project considerably. That does not appear to make a lot of sense, because the project cost already exceeds the available funding, unless the earmark is restored that provided for it to be almost fully funded by the federal government.
You can read more about the project – and it’s sister project in North Carolina – on www.WaysSouth.org. If you are not familiar with Goforth Creek, there are some nice photos there. It’s a beautiful place for photography and day hiking. WaysSouth is an advocacy group devoted to environmentally responsible transportation in Appalachia. (In the interests of full disclosure, I currently serve on the Board.)