Report on Buffalo
The Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) has set what strikes me as an arbitrary, even premature, deadline of March 17 to end public comment about granting a new and revised operating permit for C&H Hog Farms, operating in our fragile Buffalo National River watershed.
Oddly enough, the date comes a week shy of our National Park Service providing a pertinent document to what I expect will be the Department of Environmental Quality's rubber-stamped final decision that officially approves the new C&H permit. No surprise there, considering the agency so quickly and quietly approved C&H's initial permit in 2012 without hearing much, if any, relevant public comment.
The document in question represents the report on what might prove to be a highly relevant 2016 National Park Service-sponsored study by hydrologist Dave Mott.
Mott was working under contract with the Park Service to complete his report assessing the permitted concentrated animal feeding operation near the Buffalo National River.
Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, told me his group and others already tried without success to review Mott's report.
"The findings have a direct bearing on the C&H permit and should be part of the record during this crucial comment period," he said. "But ... the Buffalo National River folks, and/or their higher ups, apparently have embargoed the document."
Watkins said he and the alliance believe Mott's findings should have been made public even before the Department of Environmental Quality's designated period for public comments.
"Several folks, including us, have submitted FOIA requests for the report. We were told it will be provided by March 24."
I join those in hoping the National Park Service bureaucracy will submit Mott's significant report during the state's officially designated opportunity for public input.
Mike Masterson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 03/14/2017