Tahlequah Daily Press

April 24, 2013

STIR fears letters will derail EPA efforts

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Members of Save The Illinois River Inc. are worried efforts are under way to derail the formation of a Total Maximum Daily Load of nutrients within the Illinois River watershed.

STIR forwarded copies of six letters sent to Ron Curry, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6. The organization asked the EPA to pause the Total Maximum Daily Load being developed for the watershed to allow the findings of a two-state stressor test response to become available, involving Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Those submitting letters included Tyson Senior Vice President Kevin Igli; Simmons Chairman Mark Simmons; Poultry Federation President Marvin Childers; Rogers/Lowell, Ark.; Chamber of Commerce President Raymond Burns; Northwest Arkansas Council President Mike Malone; and Springdale, Ark., Chamber of Commerce President Perry Webb. Copies of all six letters were also sent to the corresponding U.S. senators and congressmen Northwest Arkansas.

In February, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel signed a Statement of Joint Principles, providing for a new “best science” study of the phosphorus load for the river. Both states, for the first time, agreed to be bound by the outcome.

The new study will take three years, and could result in a standard stricter than the current requirement. Oklahoma’s .037 milligrams per liter phosphorus standard will remain in effect throughout the new study.

STIR member Ed Brocksmith sent a letter to Pruitt, asking for assistance.

“STIR believes that you and the Secretary of Environment should attempt to counter these letters by urging the EPA to continue full-speed ahead with the TMDL process,” wrote Brocksmith.

“We cannot allow the important TMDL development to be further stalled by Northwest Arkansas forces.”

Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission Administrator Ed Fite was a signatory on the recent Oklahoma-Arkansas agreement.

“I was a signatory to the original agreement in 2003, and on the second agreement,” said Fite. “I believe as long as [the states] are working together, the river benefits.”

Fite agrees with Brocksmith that the EPA should disregard the letters.

“From my standpoint, several of those letters misrepresent the agreement,” said Fite.

“The second agreement is simply a three-year extension of the original document. The reason we did the extension was to avoid costly and protracted litigation and administrative hearings that would undermine the goals both states have achieved since working together in 2003.”

Fite also pointed out that the EPA, which has conducted public hearings related to the TMDL, has indicated it will continue to develop the TMDL, regardless of any agreement reached between Oklahoma and Arkansas.


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