Buffalo River 
Watershed
Alliance

News


  • 29 Jul 2018 1:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    Panel OKs decision on hog farm permit

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: July 29, 2018 at 3:29 a.m.


    The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission approved Friday its administrative law judge's recommendations to deny motions made by C&H Hog Farms arguing that its original permit was indefinitely active.

    Administrative Law Judge Charles Moulton has made a recommended decision in C&H's favor that would put the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's decision to deny its permit application back out for public comment, which will likely be considered by the commission next month. The commission is the department's appellate and regulatory body.

    Environmental groups have expressed opposition to the farm's operation within the Buffalo River watershed, citing concerns that manure from the farm could leak into the river and pollute it.

    Commissioners adopted an order by Moulton on Friday rejecting claims made by C&H on the extent to which the farm's permit can remain active.

    C&H had argued that its Regulation 6 permit remains active until the Environmental Quality Department issues a new one.

    Attorney Chuck Nestrud said law dictated that such federal permits can only be discontinued if the owner is found in violation, citing Ark. Code Ann. 8-4-203(m)(5)(D).

    In his recommended decision to the commission, Moulton emphasized that that portion of the law states an expired general permit can remain active until "a final decision is reached for an individual permit," not until a new permit is issued.

    Commissioners did not debate that decision but spent more time on C&H's argument that the department did not properly inform the farmers that they needed to submit a "timely" application for an individual permit to replace their general permit, which was no longer authorized under state environmental permitting programs. The department never told the farmers when they needed to submit their application.

    Department attorney Tracy Rothermel said the department did not give C&H a timeline on when to apply because the farmers had already submitted an application for a Regulation 5 individual permit.

    That permit was denied by the department in January after receiving initial approval last year, and in April the farmers applied for a Regulation 6 individual permit, which is still a pending application.

    Commissioners discussed whether the issue had been fully argued and whether timeliness was defined enough for them to make a ruling on it before approving Moulton's recommended decision 8-3.

    Commissioners Mike Freeze, Bruce Holland and Rusty Moss voted against it.

    Metro on 07/29/2018

  • 29 Jul 2018 1:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times


    Additional conflict noted for pro-hog farm vote on Pollution Control and Ecology Commission

    Posted By  on Sun, Jul 29, 2018 at 8:44 AM

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today wrote its story about a topic we reported Friday — the decision by new Pollution Control and Ecology Commission Mike Freeze of Keo to vote in favor of a permit for the C and H factory hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed despite having supported the permit as a private citizen before joining the commission. There's more on the conflict-of-interest front.

    Freeze has argued he could put his advocacy for C and H aside to give an unbiased decision on an administrative law judge's findings. He voted Friday for the hog farm on a permit issue.

    Environmentalists who said Freeze should recuse took care not to accuse him of bias, but said the appearance was enough that he should step aside.

    Here's more on the appearances issue from the statement of financial interest Freeze filed to serve on the commission.

    He received more than $12,500 in income last year as a member of the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation and more than $1,000 as a member of the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company. He also reported more than $12,500 income from the Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company.

    The Farm Bureau is on record supporting the factory hog farm. The Farm Bureau is paying for the attorney who appeared before the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission to argue for the hog feeding operation's permit to discharge animal waste.

    Freeze told me in an email yesterday that he'd avoided discussing the C and H issue since joining the commission.

    I did state for the record that I recused myself from and physically left any and all Farm Bureau Board of Directors’ meetings if the C & H Hog Farm issue was going to be discussed.
    I'd bet he was still able to find out the thinking of the organization that pays him and the hog farm attorney. His emails include news coverage of the issue.

    The vote against one of the contested permits for C and H Friday was 8-3, with Freeze, Bruce Holland and Rusty Moss voting with the hog farm. Bruce Holland is the former senator Gov. Asa Hutchinson put in charge of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. It has been helping C and H on studies of the controversy and Holland has been quoted as saying tourist waste could be a contributing factor to pollution of the Buffalo.  Moss is a retired row crop and catfish farmer from Dermott.
  • 29 Jul 2018 1:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    Commissioner still on C&H case

    Recusal over earlier remarks unneccessary, panel decides

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: July 29, 2018 at 3:29 a.m.

     An Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission member can continue to participate in hearings about C&H Hog Farms' appeal of its permit denial after writing public comments in support of the farm a year before his appointment to the commission, the commission has decided.

    Commissioners approved Mike Freeze's decision not to recuse from appeal proceedings with no opposition Friday.

    Environmental groups that oppose C&H's operation within the Buffalo River watershed filed a motion suggesting recusal Thursday. The groups -- the Ozark Society and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and other individuals -- are approved intervenors in C&H's appeal but cannot make motions before the commission, only before a judge.

    C&H operates on Big Creek, about 6 miles from where the creek drains into the Buffalo River. It is the only federally classified medium or large hog farm in the area and has become a concern among environmental groups that fear manure from the farm could leak into and pollute the river.

    Freeze was appointed to the commission in February by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and has been an active member of the Arkansas Farm Bureau for more than 20 years.

    On Feb. 22, 2017, he emailed the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to support C&H's application for a new permit, arguing that it would increase the number of acres accepting manure for fertilizer from the farm, thereby decreasing the amounts spread per acre.

    On March 14, 2017, Freeze sent another email declaring, "Enough is enough! ... I urge ADEQ to use science in issuing the C & H Hog Farm permit and not to allow emotional appeals from various people sway ADEQ from doing what is right."

    Commissioner Chris Gardner said Friday that no "bright line" exists in deciding whether someone must recuse. He said bias is inevitable and that the challenge is to set aside the bias and apply the law properly.

    "If they can do that, then there is no basis for recusal," he said.

    Freeze recounted his experience in farming and serving on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

    "I think all of those qualities are hopefully why he [Hutchinson] asked me to serve on this commission," he said, adding that he believes he can compartmentalize his relationships from his appointed task at the commission.

    Intervenors contended that recusals are necessitated by appearance of bias and not by actual confirmation of it. They argued that a recusal would avoid future appeals in the case based on a lack of recusal.

    "It's not actual bias, because we can never get into someone's heart," said Sam Ledbetter, attorney for the Ozark Society. "It is the appearance."

    State Desk on 07/29/2018

  • 28 Jul 2018 7:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    Buffalo River visitors warned against algae

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: July 28, 2018 at 3:52 a.m.


    Visitors to the Buffalo National River should watch out for algae on the river that has the potential to produce cyanotoxins, the National Park Service said in a news release Friday.

    Cyanotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by bacteria known as cyanobacteria, which is also known as blue-green algae. Cyanotoxins can be harmful to humans and pets, but so far none have been detected during testing on the river, according to the National Park Service.

    "The river's still safe," said Shawn Hodges, the ecologist for the Buffalo National River. "We haven't found anything that would link any illnesses with contact with the water."

    Eight people have reported illnesses to the Park Service after visiting the river this summer, the Park Service said Friday.

    The toxins can cause rashes, coughing, watery eyes and sneezing or, if ingested, nausea and diarrhea, said Hodges and Dr. Dirk Haselow, the state epidemiologist. Hodges said symptoms may take a week or two to show up.

    Tests on "less than a handful" of those who have reported illnesses have not indicated toxins so far, Haselow said. Not all of the eight people have returned messages from the Arkansas Department of Health or conducted interviews with the department about their symptoms, he said.

    Haselow said that because of the small number of people who have reported illness and the lack of a connection between the illnesses and the river, he could not say in what portion of the Buffalo those people had floated or swum. But they were not on the portion of the river the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality recommended for impairment declaration, he said.

    On Thursday, the Department of Environmental Quality recommended 14 miles of the river be declared impaired because of excessive pathogens, which can cause disease.

    "Thousands of people use the Buffalo every day, and what we're hearing about is less than [a] handful of potential illness that at this point we have not linked to the Buffalo," Haselow said.

    The Park Service is discouraging people from swimming near the algae, which has been found in the middle and lower portion of the river.

    Tests run on four samples of the water taken July 17 haven't shown toxins at levels that are detectable or exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thresholds, according to the Park Service release.

    Water tests done by the Health Department also did not show excessive E. coli, fecal coliform, turbidity or acidity, Haselow said.

    Weeks of mid-90s temperatures and little precipitation have aided algal blooms on the slow-moving river, Haselow said, but no weather conditions or other factors can help predict whether the algae will secrete toxins.

    Toxins are "rare, brief and unpredictable," Haselow said. The initial toxin release can be prominent, but toxins break down quickly.

    Recent rains may get rid of some of the algae by washing it downstream, Haselow said.

    Algae is always present on the river, Hodges said, but it has been worse in the past few years for reasons officials can only speculate about.

    Nutrients that cause algae have been increasing in the river for decades, and the past few years could have been a tipping point, Hodges said.

    Various agencies -- including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the National Park Service -- will begin testing and sampling next week to determine the causes of algae and the sources of nutrients in the water.

    The testing will look at species of algae and collect nutrient samples, Hodges said. Researchers will examine the isotopes, which could indicate whether a pollutant came from a ground source, such as nutrients embedded in soil over long periods of time, or a surface source -- a short-term source, such as a spill or a leak of manure or septic systems.

    In Mill Creek -- a tributary of the Buffalo River -- the U.S. Geological Survey and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality are already researching whether a source is humans, livestock or wild animals. 

    Visitors to the river have complained in recent years of algae in the middle stretch of the Buffalo, near U.S. 65. On Friday, a Newton County resident presented a slideshow of photos of algae on the river to the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, which is the regulatory and appellate body of the Department of Environmental Quality.

    Carol Bitting said dozens of miles of the Buffalo had algae. Bitting said she was concerned the cracks in the area's rough karst terrain meant that pollutants traveled easily throughout the river's watershed.

    Haselow said the Health Department has not tested people for illness from algae on the Buffalo since he went to work at the department in 2011, but he's not sure whether this is a first for the department, given that the river has had algae issues previously.

    "It's certainly a very rare event," he said.

    The news release encouraged people who believe they or their pets have become ill from algae exposure to report it to the Department of Health's communicable disease nurse at (501) 537-8969 during the day or the Emergency Communication Center after hours at 1-800-651-3493. They can also email the National Park Service epidemiology branch chief for the Office of Public Health at publichealthprogram@nps.gov.

    Metro on 07/28/2018

  • 27 Jul 2018 1:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette


    Part of Buffalo River, Big Creek on Arkansas' impaired list

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: July 27, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    The country's first national river is impaired, according to Arkansas environmental regulators.


    The Buffalo National River and Big Creek, a nearly 19-mile tributary of the river, are categorized as impaired in part because of pathogens, or disease-causing bacteria, according to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's draft list of impaired water bodies, or waters not meeting state water quality standards, released Thursday.


    Only a 14.3-mile segment toward the middle of the 150-mile river is impaired, meaning the amount of pathogens exceeds water-quality standards. The rest of the river is not listed as impaired.

    About 15 miles of Big Creek is also categorized as impaired, again because of pathogens, and the final 3.7 miles of the creek before it flows into the Buffalo is listed as impaired because of abnormally low dissolved oxygen levels but not for the presence of pathogens.

    The source of the pathogens is unknown, according to the department's report.

    In 2017, nearly 1.5 million people visited the Buffalo National River and spent $62.6 million supporting 911 jobs, according to the National Park Service.

    The department released its biannual list of impaired waters, also known as the 303(d) list for the section of the federal Clean Water Act that requires it, as a draft Thursday. The agency is accepting public comments through Sept. 10, after which revisions will be considered before it is submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

    In 2016, conservationists and the National Park Service requested that Mill Creek, Bear Creek and Big Creek all be included on the list because of data collected in 2015. That data showed Mill Creek had elevated E. coli levels and Bear Creek, like Big Creek, had low dissolved oxygen. 

    The department said at the time that the data did not fit into the two-year "period of record" that ends March 31 of the year before submission to be included on the list.

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette asked the department Thursday why Mill Creek and Bear Creek were not included on the 2018 list.

    The department did not grant an interview request but said the newspaper could find answers to questions sent to the department about Buffalo River tributaries and other aspects of the impaired-water-bodies list in the more than 100 pages of documents published on its website. The newspaper was unable to locate information in those pages on deadline about the other tributaries and did not receive a response from the department after stating so.

    The department and the U.S. Geological Survey are performing studies -- separate from the 303(d) requirements -- on E. coli in Mill Creek and nutrients and bacteria in the creek's watershed.

    A declaration of impairment often means more study and eventually prescriptive actions to improve the stream or lake. Those measures might include pollutant limits, determined by a Total Maximum Daily Load calculation, imposed on farming or other activities believed to be contributing to the impairment.

    In the Buffalo's and Big Creek's case, they were placed in the 4b category, meaning they are considered impaired but do not require prescriptive measures because of work already underway. According to the department, that work is the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee and the Buffalo River Watershed Management Plan. The latter is a voluntary guide of recommended measures that would benefit the river and its watershed. The committee meets a couple of times a year to discuss work and issues in the watershed.

    On Thursday, some disagreed about what might be behind the impairments to Big Creek and the Buffalo National River.

    Environmental groups have long been concerned that C&H Hog Farms -- the watershed's only federally classified large hog farm -- which is on Big Creek 6 miles from where it meets the Buffalo, could pollute the Buffalo River. Many have argued that it already has, based on ongoing studies of the creek.

    Agricultural groups have looked at the same studies and argued that they show the farm has not been polluting the watershed.

    "While some will no doubt use this declaration to unnecessarily cast a black mark against C&H Hog Farms, it is worth noting the state-sponsored science conducted by the Big Creek Research and Extension Team has never indicated C&H as a source of any environmental problems," Steve Eddington, a spokesman for the Arkansas Farm Bureau wrote in an email to the newspaper. Eddington contended that C&H has employed measures, such as controlling the timing and volume of manure application to its property, to reduce runoff of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus

    Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, expressed frustration Thursday with Big Creek and the Buffalo River not being listed as Category 5 impaired bodies, which would have required Total Maximum Daily Load studies and limits set for them.

    "The watershed management plan is all voluntary," he said.

    The plan, announced in 2016 by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and completed earlier this year, also did not address C&H Hog Farms, as Watkins and others wanted, because officials with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission said regulated entities are outside of the scope of such plans.

    The watershed management plan did not list Big Creek as a priority stream, which means applications for voluntary watershed management funding on the creek are not prioritized compared with six other streams in the watershed.

    Instead of treating Big Creek and the Buffalo like other Category 5 waters, Watkins said, the department is shifting responsibilities for the waters to other government agencies and "small organizations like us."

    The 2018 list added hundreds of miles of several waterways, including portions of the Saline River, Ouachita River, Smackover Creek and Little Cornie Creek. It removed fewer waters but well over 100 miles worth of streams and a 1,338-acre portion of Beaver Lake, a recreational and drinking water source for Northwest Arkansas.

    Last week, Save the Illinois River Inc. sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency objecting to its approval of the department's 2016 303(d) list, arguing that no change in total phosphorus had been shown to be used to justify the removal of Osage Creek and Spring Creek in the Illinois River's watershed from the Category 5 list.

    The EPA argued in its approval of the 2016 list last year that those creeks could be Category 4b because of existing efforts to improve the Illinois River.

    Those creeks were not listed as 4b in the 2018 draft, and questions about the creeks and recent steps taken to improve the Illinois River were not answered by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday.


    Metro on 07/27/2018

  • 27 Jul 2018 7:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times


    New Pollution Control commissioner ignores conflict and votes for hog farm


    Posted By Max Brantley on Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 3:35 PM


    The news from the Buffalo River continues to be bad, between increasing algae and pollution problems and  Governor Hutchinson's overt corporate politicking in government agencies. The Farm Bureau now effectively has a designated seat on the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission in the person of Mike Freeze and his first outing wasn't environmentally inspiring for protectors of the Buffalo.

    The issue today was the convoluted permit situation for C & H, the factory hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed at Mount Judea. The good news is that the Commission rejected an argument by a lawyer paid by the Farm Bureau that C & H was entitled to a perpetual permit for its waste disposal. No, a hearing officer has determined. The commission has now affirmed that one permit has expired and a second type of permit has been denied. The appeal on the second permit continues so the farm may continue to operate.

    But this was the interesting news today. Hutchinson recently appointed Farm Bureau leader Mike Freeze, a Keo fish farmer, to the commission. The governor has bragged about that appointment and a commitment to putting the state agriculture secretary on the commission.

    Well and good, since polluting interests have tended to control the commission anyway. But today's news is an egregious conflict of interest. Freeze had written in favor of the permit for C & H before he was appointed. He was asked by environmentalists to recuse from today's vote on the administrative law judge's finding, given the evidence that he was biased in favor of C & H. He refused to recuse and then he voted (in the minority) for C & H in today's permit discussion.

    Richard Mays, representing the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, in making his case that Freeze should recuse, read a couple of emails Freeze sent ADEQ during a public comment last year, before his appointment, on the individual permit sought by C & H. Freeze's first comment, in February, expressed favor for granting C & H the permit. Freeze was moved to make a second comment in March:

    I am writing you in support of C & H Hog farms being issued their ADEQ permit. Enough is enough! This farm has complied with every restriction asked of them and are good stewards of the environment. I urge ADEQ to use science in issuing the C & H Hog farm permit and not to allow emotional appeals from various people to sway ADEQ from doing what is right.  

    Mays and Sam Ledbetter, who represents the Sierra Club, said they weren't questioning Freeze's personal integrity, but that it was important to their clients — who aren't hysterical, Mays noted later, despite the reference to emotional people — and the public that the commission avoid the appearance of bias. Mays said his clients, too, have asked the commission to make its permit decisions on science.

    Freeze, in response, said, "I am an environmentalist also." He said he could "compartmentalize" his previous opinions and his decisions as a commissioner that would be based on more information than he had when he wrote the comments.  "I can be fair and honest," Freeze said. 

    When you behold the algae-clogged Buffalo, think about Mike Freeze.

    You might also remember Judge Wendell Griffen. I bet Sen. Trent Garner and similar won't be calling for the removal of Freeze, a putative neutral fact-finder, from his new position of influence over the pollution of Arkansas air and water.

    ALGAE GROWTH: It's clobbering up the Buffal River.

    The other bad Buffalo River news is the enormous growth of algae in the scenic river. It includes discovery of a harmful bacteria that has prompted cautions about swimming and wading and drinking water from the river, as detailed in the link from the National Park 
    Service.

    The Buffalo and Big Creek, on which C and H sits, also appear on a list of many Arkansaas waterways designated as having impaired water quality, a situation reported this morning in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  Watch closely those appointed to protect them and how they vote.                     
  • 26 Jul 2018 1:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    KATV


    ADEQ report lists Arkansas waterways as "impaired", including portions of Buffalo River


    It's a list the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is mandated to submit to the EPA every two years, in accordance with the federal Clean Waters Act - a list that compiles water quality data on all of Arkansas's rivers, lakes and streams.

    "They're waters in the state that are not meeting water quality standards and that would fall in a category that might need a regulatory mechanism to be put in place," said Caleb Osborne, associate director of ADEQ's water quality division.

    The biannual report is known as the 303d List, and the 2018 draft list released on Thursday lists hundreds of segments, comprising thousands of miles of Arkansas waterway, to be "impaired".

    According to ADEQ officials, an "impairment" refers to a situation where the level of a pollutant or other water-quality measure fails to meet state-set standards. 

    Included in the 2018 draft 303d List are four segments of the Buffalo River Watershed - three of which reported elevated E. coli levels. Those "impaired" Buffalo River segments are not far from the controversial C&H Hog Farm located outside Mt. Judea in Newton County, a place that's already been under public scrutiny over existing concerns of possible liquid waste contamination leaking into the Buffalo.

    "The relationship between that facility and these impairments - that's not something that this data tells us," said Osborne.

    Osborne said what the data simply suggests is the existence of the pathogens in the water surrounding C&H Hog Farm and not where it is coming from. ADEQ had no comment on whether at even a correlation exists between the farm and bacteria in the water, citing an ongoing appeal by the hog farm regarding the agency's rejection of a new liquid waste permit in January.

    "With these impairments being noted and going into 4B classification, future research projects, future research efforts in that vicinity to better understand what's going on or could contribute to those impacts - that will help answer that question," said Osborne aboutthe potential of liquid animal waste runoff being the cause of increased E. coli levels.

    ADEQ officials stress that despite the water impairment data, they're not suggesting it's unsafe to recreate in the effected areas. Osborne said the data is based on trends and multiple years of data and don't suggest an "immediate emergency".


  • 19 Jul 2018 3:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Listen: KUAF Radio


    Park Service Investigates Algae on Buffalo National River 


    By JACQUELINE FROELICH • JUL 19, 2018


    Public complaints about a growing number of algal blooms on the Buffalo National River have spurred the National Park Service to investigate. Park Service spokesperson Caven Clark says visitors are welcome to safely float and swim in the river, but visitors should avoid primary contact with affected stream sections. The Park Service posts seasonal critical alerts online, as well as water quality monitoring data by stream section.


    Listen to the full report at the link at top.

  • 18 Jul 2018 9:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Group seeks to buy last 1,600 feet for hiking trail along Buffalo River path in Arkansas

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: July 16, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    A conservation group wants to buy the final tract of land needed to finish a hiking trail that would stretch about 100 miles along the Buffalo National River.


    The tract is the only land along the Buffalo River Trail that is not federal land or already open to public access, said Caven Clark, spokesman for the National Park Service in Harrison. One other gap in the trail exists, between Pruitt and Wollum, but it's on federal land and is being completed gradually.

    A map showing the Roberts tract.

    A map showing the Roberts tract.


    The Buffalo River Foundation has purchased an option agreement that gives the group until October to raise the $52,000 needed to buy the private land. The group, working alongside other conservation groups, wants to raise an additional $28,000 to survey, appraise and endow the land, among other things.


    The land, known as the Roberts Tract, separates two ends of the existing trail. It contains the only feasible spot to build the about 1,600 feet needed to finish a 28-mile connecting trail, said Ross Noland, director of the foundation, a nonprofit land trust.


    The other 27 miles of the connecting trail are already built but haven't opened yet or been placed on maps so that people are not encouraged to trek over the private land in their quest to traverse the entire trail.


    "We've got to have the Roberts Tract. It's vital to us," said Duane Woltjen, a long-time member and board member of north Arkansas conservation groups and current webmaster for the Ozark Highlands Trail Association.


    The 28 miles extends the distance between U.S. 65 and Arkansas 14.


    The Buffalo River Trail is part of a larger ambition to connect the Ozark Highlands Trail, beginning in Lake Fort Smith, to the imagined Ozark Trail, ending in St. Louis. The Ozark Highlands Trail has been constructed from Lake Fort Smith to Norfork, Woltjen said, and more than 300 of the 500 proposed miles of the Ozark Trail in Missouri have been completed.


    Altogether, the several hundred miles of trails would be called the Trans-Ozark Trail, akin to the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, although less than half the length.


    One man has traversed the route, Woltjen said. He calls himself "Nimblewill Nomad," a nation-trotting, blogging backpacker who broke his leg in the middle of doing it. His given name is M.J. Eberhart, nicknamed "Eb."


    Completing the trail will make it more accessible to hikers who don't wish to trespass on private property, Noland and others said.


    "Hikers, unless they trespass, have to turn around and go back," Clark said.

    "So it's like the transcontinental railway," Clark said, referring to the railroad that connected the eastern half of the United States to California in the 1860s via a route from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Sacramento.


    Obstacles to completing the trails in Arkansas are largely finding the resources to build them, trail advocates said. In Missouri, the trail faces similar obstacles the Arkansas conservation groups faced with the Roberts Tract -- many sections of the trail in between units of the Mark Twain National Forest are private land, Woltjen said.


    If the foundation purchases the Roberts Tract, Noland said, the foundation and its partner groups would visit the land Nov. 17 to clear the remaining 1,600 feet of trail and connect it to the existing trail.


    The land is a 63-acre tract between U.S. 65 and Arkansas 14 on the lower Buffalo previously owned by J.I. and Joyce Graham Roberts. The tract is at the bottom of a sharp southern dip in the river and just before it turns back north to the Maumee South launch point.


    J.I. Roberts's father left it to him, and he left it to his three children when he died, according to Noland and court documents. His father, Bruce Roberts, lived in Louisiana and never built a house on the property as he had planned when he bought it in the 1960s, and his grandchildren never visited the land.


    In 1983, after years of fighting a move by the federal government to condemn the land, the Robertses entered into an agreement with the U.S. that cedes some of the land to the National Park Service for a scenic easement.


    The office of then-U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson pursued the condemnation on the behalf of acting U.S. Secretary of the Interior J.J. Simonds III. The first complaint in condemnation was filed in 1979 at the request of then-Secretary Cecil D. Andrus, three years before Hutchinson was appointed U.S. attorney.


    The scenic easement was a compromise, and it means nothing can be built on the land. The agreement also doesn't allow the public to enter the property.


    If the foundation can buy the land, the easement goes away, Clark said.

    The National Park Service would strike up an agreement with whoever would end up owning the land to have the land be preserved the same way Buffalo National River land is, Clark said.


    For decades, volunteers have built the Buffalo River Trail. The Ozark Society has hosted trail building outings led by Ken Smith, author of the Buffalo River Handbook.

    That's how much of the Ozark Highlands Trail was built, too, Woltjen said, recalling a period from 1999 to 2003 in which he and his wife helped build about 30 miles of the trail in the Sylamore Ranger District.

    Metro on 07/16/2018


  • 11 Jul 2018 2:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    New comment period advised for hog farm

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: July 11, 2018 at 1:08 a.m.


    A judge recommended to environmental regulators Tuesday a permit application for a hog farm within the Buffalo River watershed should go back out for public notice and comment after it was denied earlier this year.


    The Pollution Control and Ecology Commission must approve or disapprove of Administrative Law Judge Charles Moulton's recommendation on C&H Hog Farms. A vote is scheduled for Aug. 24.


    If approved by the commission, the hog farm's permit application would be reopened for public input more than two years after the farmers' first applied for a new operating permit. C&H is currently operating under an expired permit issued under a different, and now-canceled, regulatory program.


    Richard Mays, an attorney for some opponents of C&H Hog Farms who intervened in the farm's appeal of its permit denial, said he had "pretty high" optimism that the department would not reverse its permit denial after another public-comment period.

    "It certainly doesn't mean by any means that it's going to make a difference in the decision," said Mays, adding that he believes the department would still find the owners' application insufficient.


    A spokesman for the department and an attorney for the owners declined to comment.

    Agriculture groups have been dismayed by the department's denial of C&H's new operating permit, and some farmers have expressed concern about the department's ability to shut down a farm.


    Conservation groups have supported the denial, asserting that land application of hog manure on the rough karst terrain of the river's watershed poses a risk that the river and its tributaries can become more easily polluted.


    In his order, Moulton found that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is not prohibited from having multiple public-comment periods on the same permit application.


    In addition, the department's reversal from its preliminary approval of C&H's permit to a final decision denying it was akin to a "substantive change to a permit condition that resulted from public comment," which Moulton said was "generally accepted" as an impetus for another comment period.


    The farm's attorneys had argued that a different conclusion by the department necessitated a second public notice and comment period.


    The first public notice and comment period came after the department gave preliminary approval to C&H's application for a new operating permit.


    Based on public comments, the department denied C&H Hog Farms an operating permit because the application did not contain a study on the flow direction of groundwater or an emergency action plan.


    C&H Hog Farms operates on Big Creek, about 6 miles from where the creek drains into the Buffalo National River. The farm is authorized to hold 6,503 pigs and is the only federally classified medium or large hog farm in the area.


    The typical hog farm doesn't need to renew its permit or apply for a new one without making major modifications because such operations are permitted under Regulation 5. But C&H is the state's only hog farm permitted under another category, Regulation 6, which is an expired permitting program that issued permits that last only five years before requiring renewal.


    Both the hog farm's attorneys and the department's attorneys cited the same statue to make their cases, Ark. Code Ann. 8-4-203(e)(1).


    Attorneys for C&H cited subsections (A) and (B) of the statute, which state that the department must provide public notice of its decision to issue or deny a permit and initiate a 30-day public-comment period. The department should have issued public notice after coming to a conclusion other than its preliminary recommendation of permit approval, which is what people commented on, the attorneys argued.


    Attorneys for the department cited subsection (C)(i), which states that the department must provide a "final written permitting decision." That's "exactly what" the department did, its attorneys contended.


    After reading Moulton's order, Mays said sending the permit back out for public comment may be better in the long run for his clients' case. If the dispute over whether the department followed proper procedure in its decision-making process is resolved now, that issue won't be brought up again if C&H's appeal of its permit denial goes to higher courts, he said.


    NW News on 07/11/2018


© Buffalo River Watershed Alliance
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software