Tahlequah Daily Press

November 4, 2013

Water quality study to begin in April 2014


TAHLEQUAH — A group appointed by the governors of Arkansas and Oklahoma held its first public meeting Oct. 29 to discuss a study of a critical water quality standard for Oklahoma Scenic Rivers. It appears the study will begin in April next year.

Ed Brocksmith, Save The Illinois River Inc. treasurer, commented on the meeting in a recent post on the organization’s website.

“It was obvious from the start that considerable differences exist between the committee members about the viability of Oklahoma’s .037 milligram per liter total phosphorus limit for scenic rivers,” wrote Brocksmith. “It was also obvious that every effort will be made to insure fairness and objectivity in the group’s work, allowing all points of view to be considered. As example, no company or individual connected with a federal court lawsuit against Arkansas poultry companies will be considered for the research. The suit was filed by Oklahoma and accuses the poultry industry of polluting the Illinois River watershed with poultry waste.”

At stake is the water quality standard set by Oklahoma to protect the Illinois River watershed and five other designated state scenic rivers, as well as Tenkiller Lake.

During the meeting, Arkansas and Oklahoma co-chairs were named to ensure fairness.

A website will be established to keep the public informed. The next meeting will be held in December in Tulsa.

The Three Arkansas representatives are all from the University of Arkansas. The Oklahoma members are all water quality directors of state agencies including the ODEQ, OWRB, and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.

Others attending the meeting included representatives of both state attorney generals, Save the Illinois River Inc., the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, and the Northwest Arkansas Council, an economic development group that has raised a large part of the money for the study.

The Arkansas legislature also is contributing through an appropriation. Apparently Siloam Springs, Ark., is the only northwest Arkansas city not to contribute to the study. Other sources of the funding were not revealed.