Buffalo River 


  • 03 Apr 2018 8:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MIKE MASTERSON: Public events coming; back the Buffalo

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: April 3, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    As readers of this space know all too well, as with many, I am an unapologetic (some say fervent) supporter of protecting and preserving our country's first national river.

    The spectacular Buffalo flows 150 scenic miles through God's country. This one-and-only stream is a treasure USA Today calls our state's greatest attraction that draws nearly 2 million visitors annually who leave behind about $78 million that supports the local and state economy.

    Two coming public events will allow supporters to express their devotion. More on that below. First, valued readers, allow me yet another semi-rant.

    To have needlessly threatened such a treasure due to our state's unfathomable malfeasance and negligence has been and remains a news story of national significance. At the same time, I also strongly support our state's farms and those who labor daily, making a living to provide our food. They are such a valuable part of many successes our state has enjoyed, as well as its heritage.

    In light of the lobbyists' spin in pushing their own political interests, I often find it necessary to repeat my admiration and respect for those who farm. And of course they require the property and resources necessary to earn their living.

    My only problem stems from science and experience, both of which have proved how the enormous amounts of waste from factory farms mislocated in sensitive watersheds can turn once beautiful rivers and streams into virtual dead zones. A simple Internet check of "concentrated animal feeding operations and water contamination" proves just how true and serious a problem this has become.

    In the case of the C&H Hog Farms operating at Mount Judea with some 6,500 swine in our Buffalo National River watershed, my concern never has been with the owner/operators. I'll repeat just for clarity: Never.

    Rather, I fault the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) for ever allowing a good Newton County family to so quickly and conveniently set up shop five years ago in such a sacred and dangerously inappropriate region.

    This department's administrators in 2012 also approved the factory's location without insisting first and foremost on a geologic study from its own staff of geologists.

    It is indeed hard to believe, but not a single crucial geologic survey was required in this karst-riddled region before the agency issued the then-Cargill-supported factory a general operating permit.

    Cargill sold its pork interests to Brazil's JBS (the world's largest meat packers), whose leaders have fallen under criminal investigation and charges of public corruption.

    C&H's request for a revised operating permit was denied in January primarily for insufficient subsurface water-flow studies and matters of waste lagoon safety. But it continues spreading tons of raw waste under its expired original permit while appealing the denial.

    So it's an appropriate period for reflection and discussion. And that's just what's planned for this Saturday, where any interested citizens can gather between 6 and 8 p.m. at Fayetteville's Mount Sequoya Conference Center, 150 N. Skyline Drive.

    The forum will feature local and national experts explaining the purely scientific effects of factory farming on the state and nation's environment. (That's as opposed to the political spin and blather usually offered by obvious special interests.)

    "Nowhere is this rapid, negative change more obvious and more destructive than the creation of massive ... CAFOs now polluting communities across the nation. Air quality is ruined. Well water is contaminated. Waterways are impaired. And the quality of life for America's rural residents is put at risk for long-term harm," say leaders of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, who are sponsoring the evening.

    "Right now, this threat is growing for the Buffalo National River. Moves are being made in Little Rock that would jeopardize the health and safety of America's 'First National River'--and the communities and economies of the residents who call the Buffalo their home," they add.

    If you appreciate the river and music, 13 groups will spend the afternoon and evening of April 22 celebrating the Buffalo River and speaking on her behalf at the Revolution Music Room on President Clinton Avenue in Little Rock.

    To their credit, every musician has donated their time to the public event.

    So, for those looking for ways to support the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (and I've seen there are thousands of you), mark it on your calendar as one good way to show your concern for a donation while enjoying a continuous stream of live music from 2 to 8:30 p.m.

    Because the alliance operates on donations (unlike the deep pockets of special interests, believe it or not, to keep at least one hog factory in the Buffalo watershed) those who can't make either event yet want to help protect and preserve the river can send a tax-deductible contribution to the BRWA, P.O. Box 101, Jasper, Ark. 72641.


    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

    Editorial on 04/03/2018

  • 27 Mar 2018 8:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    MIKE MASTERSON: A needless law
    Act 10 redundant
    By Mike Masterson

    Our new state law, Act 10 of the Second Extraordinary Session of 2018, which limits when the public can comment on permits previously issued to farms (animal factories), wasn't necessary because it needlessly codified existing Department of Environmental Quality regulations.

    A proposed bill (floated before Act 10 was passed) had been actively pushed by the Farm Bureau soon after the agency denied the controversial C&H Hog Farms a revised permit to continue operating in the karst-riddled Buffalo National River watershed. That piece of special legislation wisely was rejected.

    While some legislators insist its unnecessary act doesn't directly pertain to C&H, it does limit the public's ability to officially express views about such meat-producing factories once our state awards a Regulation 5 operating permit, even though such restrictions already were in force.

    In plainest English, nothing significant has changed. Meanwhile, C&H's denied application for a Regulation 5 permit is pending appeal.

    I asked Gordon Watkins, head of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, for his thoughts.
    "While I commend legislators who voted no on Act 10, I'm trying to gain a better understanding of reasons why someone would vote 'present,' or 'excused' as their conviction on such an important matter," he said.

    Was this lawmaking exercise simply a diluted effort to pacify the politically influential Farm Bureau whose original bill (shepherded by Rep. DeAnn Vaught) somehow aimed toward protecting C&H? Some believe so. Legislators who voted against Act 10 must have realized that it, because of its obvious timing and content, was spurred by the C&H matter and overtly suppressive of the public's ability to address relevant concerns even after an official comment period closed.

    "As we well know after over its five years of operation, because we did not comment when C&H was first issued its permit (due to ADEQ's practically non-existent public notice) under existing regulations," Watkins continued, "we were repeatedly denied the right to challenge anything other than occasional (Reg. 6) permit modifications. Act 10 just restates that fact as law. It was only when C&H applied for an entirely new (Reg. 5) permit, finally triggering a fresh public comment period after five years, that we finally were able to address the full extent of the permit.

    "What's concerning to me is that the new law now codifies suppression of the public's right to challenge a permit that may be causing damage because of siting or location issues. For instance, let's say years after a permit is issued, something changes that reveals a problem. Perhaps new technology emerges, enabling better detection of environmental impacts.

    Maybe geological features are found which pose a risk unknown when the permit was issued. ... This act makes it impossible to address those problems through official public comments. One would expect ADEQ to step in if violations occur. But excuse me if I lack full faith and confidence in ADEQ's willingness to properly address permit problems. As we've seen with C&H, it took the public to convince ADEQ to deny the revised permit application."

    Watkins said Act 10 was vastly different from the initial Vaught draft bill, much to the disappointment of its special-interest sponsors. "But, as reported, [the lawmakers] had to do something to assuage concerns of bankers and permit holders who had been unduly stirred up by Farm Bureau. I'm sure the change was due to public outcry over the initial overruled attempt to craft legislation that would protect C&H. That was something cooler heads understood was unconstitutional and would be successfully challenged in court.
    "Mostly I think Act 10 is a waste of the Legislature's time and taxpayers' money. At least a handful could see that and voted against it."

    Attorney Richard Mays of Heber Springs, who represents the watershed alliance, said legislators opposing the act apparently took time to read it and exercise their own judgment rather than relying solely on the representations of the bill's sponsors.

    Because so many Arkansans are concerned for the welfare and future of our first national river and the insistence of our compliant Legislature to enact even a needless law, I decided to list and salute those with the moxie not to support Act 10, as well as those not voting or voting "present."

    Senators against: Will Bond, Linda Chesterfield, Joyce Elliott, Keith Ingram, Uvalde Lindsey and David Sanders. Not voting: Eddie Cheatham, Jonathan Dismang, Missy Irvin and Bryan King. Excused from voting: Stephanie Flowers and Gary Stubblefield (the bill's Senate sponsor).

    Representatives against: Eddie Armstrong, Andy Davis, Greg Leding, Rebecca Petty, Warwick Sabin and David Whitaker. Not voting: Charlie Collins, Joe Farrer, Vivian Flowers, Michael John Gray, Tim Lemons, Reginald Murdock and John Walker. Voting present: Fred Allen, Stephen Meeks, Clarke Tucker, Charles Blake, Milton Nicks Jr., Monte Hodges, Clint Penzo, Fredrick Love, Laurie Rushing, Stephen Magie, George McGill, James Sorvillo and James Sturch.

    I'd suffer through with an excruciating hangnail rather than be excused, vote present or not even vote on a matter as important as being on record protecting Arkansas' golden goose.
    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.
    Editorial on 03/27/2018

  • 25 Mar 2018 11:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Environment notebook

    Hog farm allowedmore time for plan

    Owners of a medium-size hog farm in Newton County that was taken to court last year by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality have until July 1 to finish clearing their stacking barns and submit a nutrient management plan, a judge ordered this month.

    Patrick and Starlinda Sanders, owners of Sanders Farms just west of Western Grove, were previously ordered to submit a nutrient management plan for the hog manure and to clean up the barns by March 15.

    By the end of February, they had submitted a temporary nutrient management plan, according to court filings. On March 1, the Sanderses asked for more time to complete a plan and to remove manure from their stacking sheds.

    A week later, Boone County Circuit Judge Gail Inman-Campbell granted the request and set a trial for 10 a.m. July 19.

    Sanders Farm, home to about 2,400 hogs, is operating without a permit in the Buffalo River watershed, but the owners are attempting to use a dry litter manure management system, which does not require a permit. Issues with hog overcrowding led to manure runoff from the farm last year, prompting the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to ask the court to shut it down, which the court declined to do.

  • 21 Mar 2018 7:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Eureka Springs Independent

    Feeding the world’ at the peril of the food chain

    March 21, 2018

    For those feeling helpless and hopeless about the special interests that seem to have taken over our democracy, remember the right to vote continues to be our best and most effective weapon. To make your vote count, be an informed citizen, willing to dig deeper than sound bites and scare tactics. Learn to ask the questions that uncover the real motives lurking behind the blather.

    Advocates for the Buffalo River recently had the experience of lobbying our state representatives and senators at the capitol in Little Rock. We spoke with just about anyone willing to come out and listen to what we had to say. Some forcefully asserted they had made their minds up about the issue, confident that Farm Bureau and the U of A Big Creek Research Extension Team (BCRET), one supported by corporate agricultural interests, the other paid with tax dollars to “prove the sustainability of an industrial hog operation in the Buffalo River watershed,” had told them all they needed to know.

    But other lawmakers expressed skepticism, acknowledging that they were feeling pressure from moneyed interests. Quite a few of them actually thanked us for coming to intervene for the river. They understood us when we said we were there to represent the river because the river could not come to them. As concerned citizens, our motivation is to protect a shared resource that was set aside more than 50 years ago to be enjoyed by all Americans, past, present and future. As a National Park, the Buffalo River should enjoy the most stringent of protections. But every generation must learn greed never sleeps, and the forces of self-interest will find ways to work around the best of defenses if we are not constantly vigilant.

    BCRET spokesmen had the privilege of coming before the entire House of Representatives to report there was “no evidence of degradation” in Big Creek or the Buffalo River. Yet independent scientists, using the raw data (formerly) posted on BCRET’s website, found nitrogen levels increased below C&H Hog Farms by 150%.  Data compiled by United States Geological Survey water monitoring, showed dissolved oxygen in Big Creek, the stuff fish and other aquatic creatures depend on to live, dropped below acceptable levels in 33% percent of tests, surpassing the 10% threshold to receive the designation of an impaired waterway. How had BCRET missed these trends? Apparently by not evaluating or analyzing any data that appeared to be problematic. If you don’t look, you can’t see, and you can then make claims that are “true.”

    The environmental damages being seen where concentrated animal feeding operations proliferate are undeniable. To believe you can do the same thing over and over and get different results is the definition of insanity. Sooner or later, as was the case with cigarettes or Oxycontin, the truth will reveal itself. The only question is how bad the damage will get before that happens.

    The Louisiana Thrush, also called the “Bobber Bird,” relies on clean water to eat, because stoneflies and caddo flies die off when their habitat is damaged. Mussels and other sensitive forms of life quietly vanish where once they thrived. That’s the nature of degradation. It’s a quiet and stealthy killer, a creeping catastrophe that will be denied and dismissed until it is finally too late.

    Who will fight for a waterway clogged with algae or choked with dead fish?

    Want to learn more about industrial agriculture and what the oft-cited claim, “We’re just trying to feed the world” is really costing us? Please mark your calendar and attend “What’s Next for our Buffalo River?” Saturday, April 7 from 6 – 8 p.m. at Mount Sequoyah Assembly Bailey Center in Fayetteville.

    Gordon Watkins will provide an update on efforts to protect the Buffalo River, then participate in a panel discussion with national experts from the Waterkeepers Alliance Pure Water, Pure Farms Initiative, and EarthJustice, as well as Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. The more we all understand about the corporate take-over of American food systems, the more effective we will be in choosing who we want making the laws that protect our web of life. This is a free program.

    Lin Wellford

  • 20 Mar 2018 9:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Harrison Daily Times

    Marion County JPS table resolution supporting hog farm

    By GEORGE HOLCOMB news@harrisondaily.com 

    • Mar 20, 2018 

    YELLVILLE — The Marion County Quorum Court discussed a resolution supporting C&H Hog Farm in Newton County. The justices decided to table the question for further study, and will revisit the issue in April.

    The court considered a resolution pledging their support for the hog farm, six miles up a tributary of the Buffalo River. The resolution was referred from the Newton County Quorum Court, which adopted it in February.

    C&H has a troubled history. In August 2012, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) issued a permit for C&H to house and feed up to 2,500 sows and 4,000 piglets at its property near Mt. Judea. In October 2016 that permit expired, six months after C&H applied for a new, updated permit.

    The new permit application was pending for nearly two years before ADEQ denied it, citing a lack of critical supporting documentation, such as “the requisite geological, geotechnical, groundwater, soils, structural, and testing information.” The expiration of the old permit and denial of the new one left C&H in a vulnerable spot, operating under the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission’s decision not to shut them down until their appeal has been decided.

    Representatives of at least half a dozen environmental watchdog groups were there to argue against the resolution. They said:

    • It was being sought in order to help pressure state government to subvert the ADEQ ruling.

    • It was only a matter of time before a failure in the farm’s pollution control mechanisms creates a disaster on the Buffalo.

    • Some scientific data indicate an already existing level of failure that imperils the Buffalo even without a catastrophe.

    • The multinational corporation that owns the pigs are raising them here for consumption in China, leaving area residents to deal with the mess.

    • The language of the resolution itself contained errors and gratuitous attacks on both state and federal government, and called for “cessation of the unwarranted federal and state governmental interference with the C&H Hog Farm.”

    After these points had been argued, Marion County Judge Terry Ott offered the operators of C&H equal time to respond. Jason Henson, one of the partners in the business, rose and offered these points in rebuttal:

    • The farm’s operators have taken on huge debt (nearly $4 million) to make this venture work.

    • They have done everything they were required to do and provided all the documentation they were asked to provide.

    • The farm has been operating four years without being cited for a violation. In fact, Henson said after the Environmental Protection Agency studied the operation for three days in 2015, they said it was the best operation of its type they had seen.


    • It is a family farm. Of the nine people who work there, eight are family members.

    • All the data offered by their opponents is suspect and cherry-picked; pigs don’t produce nearly as much waste as they say, most of the pigs on the place are juveniles, nitrate concentrations are always greater the farther downstream you go.

    “If they can jerk a properly obtained permit out from under our compliant operation,” Henson concluded, “they can do the same thing to you.”

    Justices Brady Madden, Joyce McCalla and Carl McBee all expressed the opinion that this was not really something the Marion County Quorum Court should be addressing.

    “I am not comfortable with this resolution,” said McBee. “Maybe this is not our place.”

    McBee suggested scheduling a public hearing, once the JPs have had time to review and understand the data, and tabling the resolution for later consideration.

    The motion to table passed with Justices Mike Scrima, Nicholas Nugent, Gregg Alexander, McBee, Wesley Shipman, and McCalla in favor and Raymond Mayo, Madden, and Claudia Brigham against.

  • 17 Mar 2018 8:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    New names called for

    Should the state Legislature pass, and the governor sign, the legislative end run around the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality permit appeal filed by C&H Hog Farms, I would then suggest that the "Natural State" change its motto to "The Pig Manure State" (expletive modified), and that the Buffalo River should be changed to The First National Pig Manure Trough (expletive modified).


  • 17 Mar 2018 8:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I have been following the fiasco regarding the C&H Hog Farms permit from the beginning.

    Mike Masterson with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has written several columns regarding this misplaced hog farm that is polluting the Buffalo National River. It seems the Department of Environmental Quality did not follow many of its own rules and regulations by granting the original permit for the farm.

    I read in the paper that the state Legislature sneaked a last-minute item in the special session to let C&H continue to operate on its original permit which allows up to 5,000 gallons per day of hog waste to leak from the hog waste ponds. I ask the Democrat-Gazette to publish a list of our state legislators who voted for and against this proposal so the voters can see how they voted on this critical issue.

    The former legislators who pushed through for the Buffalo River to be designated as a national river must be rolling over in their graves!


  • 17 Mar 2018 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Explanation of karst

    This writer is a retired engineer peacefully living out his life on rural acreage near Mena. I have no dog in the hog farm hunt, nor do I belong to any environmental groups. But I have had considerable firsthand experience in dealing with underlying karst formations when designing and building cement mills and other heavy industrial plants.

    In layman's terms, karst can best be compared to the ant farm my sons had as children. Visualize a series of cracks, fissures and voids beneath a surface that otherwise shows little indication of such. Pour liquid on the surface of that ant farm and it soon finds its way to the bottom. Such is the case with karst, except there is no bottom for containment. Instead, it finds its way to an underlying aquifer or otherwise manifests itself through springs or seeps. Once karst is contaminated, the damage cannot be remediated except by the flushing action of time.

    Major aquifers in other states are fed by karst, and regulations for industry are stringent to avoid contamination. Industrial leakage is not tolerated. Such should have been the case here. Operating this facility "as is, where is" is potentially dangerous to any and all who are downstream.



  • 15 Mar 2018 6:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For that stinkin’ bill

    I’d like to propose a rider to the bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Wardlaw and Sen. Gary Stubblefield that would limit public comment on environmental permits on large-scale hog farms like the one C&H Hog Farms is operating in the Buffalo River watershed.

    That rider would state that the next two hog farms permitted with open-air lagoons be placed as close to their homes as possible, preferably downwind. Additional permits would be issued to any legislator who votes for this stink of a bill.



  • 15 Mar 2018 6:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Animal farm bills advance at state Capitol

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: March 15, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    Thomas Metthe Credit: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
    State Sen. Joyce Elliott gestures Wednesday that she would like to speak against Senate Bill 8, a measure to amend a state law concerning modification and review of permits issued by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. 

    The Arkansas House and Senate on Wednesday approved their versions of bills that would ensure limitations on what the public can say and when on existing state animal-farm permits.

    Senate Bill 8 and House Bill 1007 passed their respective chambers -- SB8 by 21-7 and HB1007 by 73-6. Four members of the Senate did not vote, while in the House, seven did not vote and 13 voted present. Today is expected to be the last day of a special legislative session dealing with a limited agenda set by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

    The companion bills, which will go to the opposite chambers today for their next vote, stipulate that "liquid animal waste management system" permits, issued by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, can be subject only to public comments about proposed modifications at the time they are proposed. Further, the permit holder would not be subject to review or an appeal from a third party over issues dealing with the location of the farm if those issues were not raised during the review phase of the original permit application.

    The bills were spurred by fears in the agriculture community after the Department of Environmental Quality denied a new permit to C&H Hog Farms near the Buffalo National River in Mount Judea. Lawmakers said farmers were concerned that their permits could be challenged now for any reason that may be raised in a public comment period or another review.

    Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, the sponsor of HB1007, has stated repeatedly that the bill would not affect C&H Hog Farms because C&H is not an existing state permit holder.

    Opponents of the farm have questioned whether the language in the bill is specific enough to ensure that is true and have contended that they would want to be able to comment on existing permits if pertinent environmental issues were to emerge.

    Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, voted against the bill and asked during discussion on the Senate floor whether the bill's language would prevent a third party from challenging a permit holder once they discovered a problem at the permit holder's facility that perhaps the Department of Environmental Quality refused to pursue.

    "I think what Sen. Elliott just outlined is a possible future occurrence," said Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock.

    Sanders voted against the bill, he said, out of concern for what passing it could mean for future legislation.

    "My concern is that while authors of bill and testimony said the bill doesn't really accomplish much, I think it does establish the precedent of rolling back third-party appeal rights, which I don't think is a precedent the Legislature ought to set," Sanders said.

    Sanders was the lone dissenting voice vote at an earlier Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee meeting that advanced the Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch.

    Earlier in the day, the House of Representatives passed its version of the bill.

    Rep. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, said he had gotten an email Wednesday morning from someone asking why lawmakers couldn't just add language in the bill that would ensure it would only affect existing or prospective hog farms.

    "You don't have to, Rep. Hendren," Wardlaw said.

    C&H would not be affected "because C&H Hog Farm does not hold a Regulation 5 permit," he said.

    Rep. Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers, said she was getting emails similar to the one Hendren received and asked why the bill was needed now.

    Existing farms need reassurance, Wardlaw said.

    "They need this clarified," he said.

    Both Hendren and Petty voted against the bill.

    Before the House vote, the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee approved on a voice vote Senate Bill 8.

    Sanders, like other lawmakers Tuesday, asked repeatedly why the bill was needed if supporters said it didn't actually change department practices.

    Wardlaw repeatedly stated that the bill would ease fears among farmers and put a current practice by the Department of Environmental Quality in more precise words in the Arkansas Code. But it would not change anything, he said.

    Stubblefield, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said that without the bill, permit holders could be sued.

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