HUDSON: Squeaky wheels getting some grease in the Uwharries

“If you’ve been to this state treasure or you live in the area, you’ve seen how difficult it has been to maintain the roads through the Uwharrie Forest.”

We’ve all heard the old proverb, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In a lot of cases, this means the problem talked about most loudly or the issue causing the biggest headache usually gets fixed first. I’ve found this to be true in Congress, and it’s why I’ve continued to be a loud — and persistent — advocate for issues important to our community.

Last week, we got a little grease. The House of Representatives passed the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2019 (H.R. 6147) which included a provision I secured to address the maintenance backlog for unpaved roads in the Uwharrie National Forest.

If you’ve been to this state treasure or you live in the area, you’ve seen how difficult it has been to maintain the roads through the Uwharrie Forest. Over the years, the roads have become severely eroded from travel, age and elements — causing tremendous problems for visitors and residents alike. In 2014, I successfully got Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to repair part of the roads after they sustained tremendous damage, but it continues to be an issue as more gravel has washed away.

More than just a headache, it’s a real safety issue when first responders can’t reach people in emergencies. I’ve been on these roads after storms, and there’s no way firetrucks and ambulances can access these roads in bad conditions. That’s unacceptable and one reason why I’ve worked hard over the years to advocate on behalf of the Uwharrie National Forest and its upkeep.

My provision brings much needed attention to this issue by having the Forest Service work with the local community to identify priority projects. In addition, the funding bill included additional funding for the U.S. Forest Service’s Capital Improvement and Maintenance account — $50 million above last year’s levels. This program provides funding to pave national forest roads like the ones in the Uwharrie National Forest.

As your voice in Congress, I will continue to work with local, state and federal stakeholders to make sure the Uwharrie National Forest has the best tools, resources and funding to maintain forest roasts. While there is still more work to do, I am more confident than ever that we will finally be able to get this issue resolved once and for all.

When it comes to issues facing our district, I will always be a prominent voice in discussions. It’s exactly why my casework team works tirelessly at our three offices across the district to assist you, and it’s why I travel the district meeting with folks every spare moment I have.

That’s also why I’m bringing prominent federal officials to the district to see and hear firsthand what’s impacting our lives. In fact, in the next few weeks I’m planning on having the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Program traveling across the district to talk about resources we need to combat the opioid epidemic and get our rural communities more access to high-speed broadband internet. Connecting our communities with federal officials in Washington is a critical part of my role as your representative, and I will continue being the squeaky wheel for our district’s priorities.