Letter to the Editor

Reader: Population figures matter to SWEPCO

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Editor's note: Following is a guest commentary by Dr. Luis Contreras of Eureka Springs, in response to a report published in last Friday's Carroll County News. That report failed to take into account the statistical margin of error in census reports, and therefore mistakenly reported that Carroll County's 2012 census estimates showed population growth in each city as well as countywide. A corrected version of that report appears on Page 5 of this edition of CCN. We apologize for the misunderstanding and error.

From the May 31 CCN Article: "CARROLL COUNTY -- The population of Carroll County grew slightly from 2010 to 2012, new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show. The number of people residing in the county grew by 0.6 percent -- or 164 people -- during the two years ending July 1, 2012."

I don't agree with the title or the information of this story. It is hard to claim that 0.6 percent is real growth.

At a time when SWEPCO says that there is a Public Need for their proposed gigantic transmission line and new power station, based on the SPP study using 2007 data to predict consumer demand in 2016 to 2056, it is very important to challenge the idea that there has been any growth in population in Carroll County that would support SWEPCO's claim of Public Need.

The recently reported increase of 0.6 percent could be due to chance: If they took the census again, they could find a decrease in population. From a statistical, scientific point of view, the population of Carroll County has not changed in the last two years.

The statistical margin of error rate for any census is typically 5 percent, but it can be much higher, unfortunately. For example, a recent national news article reported: "During the 2010 census, 14.3 percent of Boston's reported population was counted erroneously, the highest error rate in the country, according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau."

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. This is actually very hard to do, as people may be counted twice or not counted at all. Additionally the information for 2012 came from a sample that also has a built-in error rate; and the 2012 data is merely estimates, as the census is taken only every 10 years.

The population of Carroll County, according to the last four actual census counts, for the last 40 years was:

Census year, population, percent change:

* 1980, 16,203, 31.70 percent increase

* 1990, 18,654, 15.10 percent increase

* 2000, 25,357, 35.90 percent increase

* 2010, 27,446, 8.20 percent

The census data from 2000 to 2010 shows that the population increase from 25,357 to 27,446 was only 8 percent, which is significantly less than the growth from 1990 to 2000, which was 35.9 percent. This is easy to understand since this period includes the 2008 recession that is ongoing. The real trend for Carroll County is decreasing population. If the transmission line is not stopped we will see a much larger decrease in population as people move out of the area.

Mike Bishop, director of the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, made the following comment about the population of Eureka Springs: "I believe more people are moving out of the city limits and are enjoying the natural scenery and environment of the Ozarks. While we have lost overnight lodging properties in town, more cabins, cottages, tree house resorts and lakeside properties have become available outside the city -- again, due to the serenity and beauty of the undisturbed Ozarks."

-- Dr. Luis Contreras

Eureka Springs