Buffalo River 
Watershed
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  • 22 Apr 2017 6:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On 'sound science'

    Consider data sources on Buffalo


    By Gordon Watkins Special to the Democrat-Gazette

    Posted: April 22, 2017 at 2:18 a.m


    NWAOnline


    Governor Hutchinson: We appreciated your letter of April 14 regarding the C&H operation. We agree with your sentiments regarding the value of the Buffalo National River as well as the importance of sound science for informing good decisions, but we respectfully contend that the sources of your scientific information are inadequate and politically tainted.


    Consider the Department of Environmental Quality, which serves as the state's nonpartisan source for reliable environmental science. Regrettably, its reputation was harmed by the mere act of issuing the C&H permit, especially without public notice or the requisite construction permit. As a result, the standard geological review by a staff geologist was bypassed. If a permit for a large industrial CAFO in a geologically sensitive watershed, which flows into our national river, is not significant enough to require review by a staff geologist, what permit would trigger such review?

    Further, engineering guidance provided by the Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook, a key regulatory document, was ignored when the permit was first reviewed. 


    The agency has irreparably discredited itself scientifically.


    Consider the Big Creek Research and Extension Team, whose role you emphasized as being of key importance in assessing the impact of the hog farm. Gov. Mike Beebe enlisted the UA School of Agriculture, which then created the Big Creek team, to monitor the environmental impact of the hog farm. Later the Cooperative Extension Service joined the team. The service primarily assists farmers, which creates an unavoidable conflict of interest for the team between its original mandate to monitor versus now, the role to help C&H succeed.


    Early on, the Big Creek study was reviewed by an independent panel of experts who noted a number of shortcomings, including that the team was not sampling Big Creek during storm events, times which typically result in nutrients and pathogens being washed from the fields into the streams. The panel pointed out that the team was conducting tests under conditions that were less likely to reveal a problem. This and other panel recommendations were discounted. Most egregious however was the team's withholding of the controversial taxpayer-funded electrical resistivity imaging pond data for over a year until our organization stumbled upon it and made it public.


    The team's credibility was severely damaged and its priorities are now in doubt.


    In response to that scandal, the Department of Environmental Quality hired Harbor Environmental to drill a single hole near the C&H ponds. It ignored numerous credible scientists, including the project's own independent geologist, who advised them that a single hole was inadequate to determine much of anything. M.D. Smolen, Ph.D., with 35 years of experience in water quality management said: "Although leakage from the ponds has not been confirmed to date, any seepage or direct leakage from the ponds would be transmitted to groundwater and ultimately to the Buffalo River. The fact that Harbor Environmental did not confirm any ground water contamination is not conclusive because they only drilled one hole." When its report was completed, the department forbade direct communication between Harbor and the scientific community or the public. Whether Harbor did good work or not, the results were tainted by the way the department controlled the process, which further solidified its deteriorating scientific credibility.


    Governor, you have characterized the public as "emotional," but two to three million gallons of raw hog waste disposed of on fields upstream of our national river is certainly going to elicit a strong public response. Threats to treasured wild places do that. But the fact is that real science is validating the public's concerns. The National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey agree that Big Creek is now impaired for dissolved oxygen, a sign of nutrient overloading. The Big Creek team's own data shows elevated nitrate levels. Dr. JoAnn Burkholder, a William Neal Reynolds distinguished professor, says: "The data clearly indicate that the C&H CAFO is contributing swine waste pollution to adjacent public trust waters. The nitrate levels downstream from this CAFO commonly are levels that have been shown in other research to be toxic to sensitive aquatic life."


    The data also show elevated levels of E. coli, which as you know has human health implications. Dr. Burkholder notes: "These data indicate that the C&H CAFO is discharging E. coli bacteria which are contributing to the pollution of Big Creek in the CAFO area and downstream waters."


    Governor, we simply don't have the space here to show you all of the real science. We recently submitted nearly 100 pages of comments to the Department of Environmental Quality. Our scientific sources are well-credentialed, reliable, and nonpartisan. Your current sources are pandering to special interests and are insufficient to properly inform your decisions. For the sake of our national river, its ecology, and the powerful tourism economy that it supports, please don't gamble. Look beyond your current sources for truly "sound science."

    ------------v------------

    Gordon Watkins is president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance.

    Editorial on 04/22/2017

  • 21 Apr 2017 3:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Matters



    Buffalo National River Tourism Boosts Local Economies

    Posted: Apr 21, 2017


    HARRISON, Ark. (News release) – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 1,785,358 visitors to Buffalo National River in 2016 spent $77,556,600 in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,200 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $90,199,700.

    “Buffalo National River welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Kevin Cheri. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning more than $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

    The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally; 271,544 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $34.9 billion.

    According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5%).

    Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse.

    The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

    To learn more about national parks in Arkansas and how the National Park Service works with Arkansas communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/arkansas.

  • 21 Apr 2017 9:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Watch broadcast here:  NWAHomepage.com


    Buffalo National River Trying To Change Tarnished Reputation


    By: Scott Brewster 

     

    Northern Arkansas--- The Buffalo National River spans 153 miles through the heart of Northern Arkansas. 


    A National Park Service Report shows that visitors to the Buffalo River 











    spent over $77 million last year in communities near the national park.











    That money supported 1,200 jobs in the area, and boosted the local 













    economy by over $90 million.


    That flow of tourism money could soon dry up if things don't change with the Buffalo River.









    It's beginning to have a new, tarnished reputation.
















    The Buffalo National River is a hot bed for outdoor lovers, but now it's in 
















    the national spotlight for something else.


    "I've probably had as many letters about the Buffalo River since I've been governor as any topic, and that says a lot," Governor Asa Hutchinson said. 

     

    The American Rivers Association just released it's annual list of the most endangered rivers in the United States. 


    Cracking the top ten, The Buffalo River sits at number 9.

     

    "There's really two factors," Brian Haggard said. "One is the C and H Hog Farm that we've all heard a lot about that's been in the press and  newspapers and the other reason is the potential cuts to the Department of the Interior in the National Park Service."

     

    Brian Haggard is the Director for the Arkansas Water Resource Center and he says President Trump's recent proposed cuts to the EPA could make the matter worse. 

     

    "Something's going to have to give and a lot of times that might be data collection or land management or who knows what impact it might have on the Buffalo River," Haggard said. 

     

    Haggard says the biggest risk for those on the water especially those using a kayak or canoe is the potential risk of them coming into contact with hog waste.

     

    "From a human health perspective what we'd be concerned with would be bacteria in particular e-coli," Haggard said. 

     

    C and H Hog Farm produces about 80,000 hogs a year, which is equivalent to the waste produced by about 30,000 people. 

     

    that waste is causing the water quality to decline due to runoff.  

     

    KNWA has been following this story for years, and we previously spoke with the owner of the hog farm, who says he's been following all state regulations. 

     

    "These fields that we have have been fertilized for years and years," Jason Henson, Co-Owner of C&H Hog Farm said. "We have rules and regulations on how much we can put out and when we can put it out, and how we can put it out."

     

    Regardless of what's causing the river to be endangered, Haggard says we have to always be aware of what we're doing when it comes to protecting the environment. 

     

    "We have to realize that anything that we do as humans in the landscape, it's going to have an impact on our water resources," Haggard said. 

     

  • 18 Apr 2017 5:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    How committed to Buffalo River is the governor?


    Gov. Hutchinson’s guest column in the Democrat-Gazette on April 14, declares his allegiance to the protection of the Buffalo River. There are some major holes in this commitment.

    The establishment of the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee and the Buffalo River Water Management Plan are clearly limited in scope as said entities do not appear to address the very real concerns of hog factory farming in the sensitive karst terrain of the Buffalo River watershed.

    While the Buffalo River Management Plan is a welcome opportunity for people to collaborate on many levels, the facilitators of the Buffalo Water Management Plan clearly stated at both of the public meetings held Dec. 9 and March 30 that hog factory farming is beyond the developing water management’s plan scope. Hog factory farming will not be addressed by the water management plan.

    Yet it is clear that committee and management plan would not have been created had it not been for the hog farm controversy and numerous public expressions. The National Park Service and the United States Geological Survey have submitted substantial and credible data to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality that indicates likely impairment on Big Creek where the current hog factory farm sits. Yet the committee and management plan have not addressed this data, which was a large part of the impetus for forming these entities.

    Perhaps the governor does wish to protect this remarkable natural resource and the tourism industry resulting from the Buffalo River. To sincerely show his commitment he would look at all the science and direct the Department of Environmental Quality to deny the Regulation 5 permit for C&H hog factory and create a permanent moratorium on large-scale hog factory farming in the Buffalo River watershed.


    GINNY MASULLO

    Fayetteville

  • 18 Apr 2017 5:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our governor admits that his passion for the Buffalo River colors his response to the available science. First he says, "Science, not emotion, must drive our approach to protecting the Buffalo National River." A bit later he says, "My love for our state and my passion to protect our water compels me to ensure that the studies are scientific and impartial."

    Unfortunately for the river, love and passion are not the measures by which science is ensured. Unbiased rigorous study design and adherence to set protocols are the basis of true science. Despite assurances from the Department of Environmental Quality and Big Creek Research and Extension Team reports, the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Karst Hydrogeology of the Buffalo National River, and Arkansas Game and Fish all beg to differ in their reports of impairment.

    If wishes were fishes, the river would be swimming with healthy organisms and species. Instead, the USGS shows the tributary next to the C&H CAFO is alarmingly low in dissolved oxygen that allows smallmouth bass to breathe and flourish. The Department of Environmental Quality ignores the data, claiming it's too much information to process. Although the Big Creek research team reported high nitrate levels and peaks in phosphorus that promote stringy algae blooms that obscure the clear waters downstream, it continues to repeat that the water is okay.

    We applaud our governor's love for the Buffalo, but ask him to keep an eye on the science, read the Regulation 5 comments on the Department of Environmental Quality's website from the Buffalo National River superintendent, the Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, noted geologists, and former Environmental Quality employees.

    Sometimes, Governor, your closest advisers are not your most objective sources of impartial information.

    MARTI OLESEN

    Ponca

    Editorial on 04/18/2017


  • 18 Apr 2017 5:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I thank the governor for his piece in this paper on Friday. I wondered where he stood on the commercial hog operation in the Buffalo River watershed. Now I know, and I'm deeply disappointed.

    I share his views on private land use but wonder what in his opinion are the "rare circumstances" that would justify restrictions. He must oppose eminent domain, and it appears he would have opposed preserving the Buffalo River in the first place. Indeed, our national river came at a great cost--the private land rights of hundreds of Arkansans. (A good read is Stolen Water, Forgotten Liberties by Jenny Barnes Butler of Conway.) We forced people off their ancestral land for the greater good; now we insult them and all in the Natural State by not denying a large commercial operation that will eventually damage this natural treasure.

    The governor claims the decisions of the Department of Environmental Quality are "scientifically and environmentally sound." I couldn't disagree more.

    To read his piece one would think all the science is on the side of the hog operation and nothing but emotions are on the side of the river proponents. I remind him that geology is a science, and it is not on his side. I found his words to be arrogant and condescending.

    As to his feelings about the Buffalo, I found his words to be empty and his actions insufficient.

    Not mentioned was the economic impact to the state. I can't remember in my 67 years a case where so much was put at such great risk for so little benefit.

    I feel the governor shows a lack of foresight and even political astuteness--and if I am wrong there, then there is the question of courage. I guess I need to work on those things myself since I voted for him.


    DAVID T. JONES

    Heber Springs

  • 18 Apr 2017 5:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Governor’s response

    The unimpressed

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: April 18, 2017 at 2:27 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    I was surprised to see Gov. Asa Hutchinson's response on the Voices page last week to my open letter in a column that ran last April (republished two weeks ago). I'd appealed to his role as the chief protector of our Buffalo National River to stop the inevitable contamination from hog waste continuously being spread by C&H Hog Farms on fields along Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo.

    I'm sharing only three edited reactions to Hutchinson's letter from informed citizens and scientists who've invested years of research and personal resources toward protecting the country's first national river.

    Science indeed leads 

    Gordon Watkins, head of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance: "Many have been asking the governor to make the C&H owners whole by buying them out. Making this a 'property rights' issue only makes resolution more difficult. ... Because there was no public notice, ADEQ's errors went unchallenged until it was too late," he said.

    "When the governor writes: 'Science, not emotion, must drive our approach,' he's parroting the Farm Bureau. Yes, science should indeed lead. Then he says, 'The science tells me there's no evidence of a release from the storage ponds.' Any scientist will tell him this is an invalid conclusion based on a single bore hole.

    "Science does indeed show evidence of negative impact to Big Creek, whether from the ponds or, more likely, from the waste spreading fields. Hard data collected by the Big Creek Extension Research Team, the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as geoscientist Dr. John Van Brahana, all are sounding alarms.

    "Again, the Farm Bureau seems to be whispering in his ear and cherry-picking data ... . If the governor will read our 98 pages of comments he'll find plenty of facts and science-based arguments.

    "The governor also says work has progressed on a watershed management (WMP) plan to help identify opportunities for protecting and enhancing the Buffalo watershed. At the last WMP meeting, Big Creek was conspicuously absent from the proposed list of priority streams where attention would be focused until public objections compelled the contractor to reluctantly include that major Buffalo tributary. At every turn, relevant state agencies are looking the other way rather than confronting the obvious source of the problem.

    "Hutchinson says, 'the drilling study evaluated the integrity of C&H's pond liners.' That's mistaken. That study looked only at a single anomaly while specifically avoiding any comprehensive evaluation of pond integrity.

    "Finally the governor says, '... public and private projects are now being advanced to focus on protection and preservation.' Yet he emphasizes their voluntary, 'nonregulatory' focus. Valid protection of the Buffalo requires regulatory changes."

    Peer-reviewed science 

    UA geosciences professor emeritus John Van Branaha, an expert on karst geology, has worked closely with at least eight other scientists and specialists to voluntarily study potential environmental effects of the hog factory on the watershed.

    Brahana cited his peer-reviewed scientific findings: "First water flows downhill, always following the path of least resistance. which in karst terrain is underground. Spreading fields underlain by karst receive feces and urine from 6,500 hogs.

    "Groundwater samplings from wells and springs near the fields show increasing trends of contaminants. Dye tracings from selected sites close to the fields show rapid transmission of groundwater, typically 2,000 feet daily. Dye tests following heavy rains when groundwater levels are elevated show the flow moves beneath surface water divides to reach springs, wells and streams. The tests also show groundwater during high flow events moved to the Buffalo River downhill from where dye was input."

    Brahana said such significant findings and more have previously been sent to the governor and others without being addressed. He also hopes the governor will show enough interest to invest an hour with him to review the documented science and related presentation he shared at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute during our recent workshop together. Why wouldn't the governor?

    Much science presented 

    Carol Bitting (aka the watershed warrior): "The governor writes he's made sure the public and regulatory agencies have all the facts. Specifically, he says he's directed funding toward two separate and impartial scientific studies around C&H Hog Farms.

    "His statement is so similar to those of the Pork Producers' Jerry Masters and Evan Teague of the Farm Bureau that it sheds light on why he cites only two studies, while the ADEQ's own 1990s study of hog CAFOs in the Buffalo watershed is ignored.

    "The algae photographs of last September reveal truth of the Buffalo's pollution. The Beautiful Buffalo River Action Plan excludes permitted facilities. Does the governor think we believe 6,500 hogs producing eight times the amount of waste as one human then spread over sinkholes and fractures year around doesn't make its way to the river?

    "Many scientific documents have been submitted, including reputable scientific data. To base the scientific 'evidence' on two studies (each designed outside state agency handbook recommendations) while excluding all the relevant science here makes me wonder how, and why, the governor can release a statement such as this."

    ------------v------------

    Mike Masterson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

    Editorial on 04/18/2017


  • 14 Apr 2017 1:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    OPINION - Guest writer

    A serious task

    Committed to protecting Buffalo

    By ASA HUTCHINSON SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE


    As governor of Arkansas, I have a responsibility to protect the Buffalo River. As an outdoorsman, I have a personal interest in seeing the Buffalo River healthy and beautiful for my grandchildren. I take my responsibility seriously.


    In a recent column, Mike Masterson penned an open letter asking me to block the renewal of the permit for C&H Hog Farms, which has its operation six miles from the Buffalo on the Big Creek tributary. Masterson invoked the name of his late uncle, John Paul Hammerschmidt, the Arkansas congressman whose love for the Buffalo led to its designation in 1972 as the nation's first national river.


    I was elected to Congress from the same district as John Paul Hammerschmidt. I knew him well, and he inspired all of us to protect our natural heritage. He concluded that the Buffalo River watershed needed to be protected as a national park after his own vigorous research. Through his actions, he urged Arkansans to make decisions based upon the law, facts, and science.


    It is important to note that only in rare circumstances is the state of Arkansas authorized to restrict how private landowners are to utilize their land. And the legislative restrictions on land use do apply to C&H Hog Farms. In order for the private landowner to operate such a facility, he is required to allow the state to restrict the use of his land through a rigorous regulatory process. To date, the hog farm has operated in a manner that satisfies all water-quality and land-use regulations that Arkansas and federal law require.


    The monitoring and inspection of this facility to ensure that it is operating within the bounds of its permit is a priority for me as governor. Because of the farm's Big Creek location, I am committed to constant and complete oversight of this permit.

    Science, not emotion, must drive our approach to protecting the Buffalo National River and the Buffalo River watershed. With that science-driven approach in mind, I have taken steps to be sure both the public and the regulatory agencies have all the facts. Specifically, I have directed funding toward two separate and impartial scientific studies around C&H Hog Farms.


    First, I have extended the five-year survey of the University of Arkansas' Big Creek Research and Extension Team. Second, I have directed the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to use agency funds to contract a third party to initiate a drilling study near the storage ponds at C&H Hog Farms. The drilling study evaluated the integrity of C&H's pond liners because an imaging study conducted by the Big Creek team indicated the possibility of a release from the ponds. The independent investigators found no evidence of a release.


    My love for our state and my passion to protect our water compels me to ensure that the studies are scientific and impartial. The studies on which the Department of Environmental Quality bases its decisions are, and will continue to be, scientifically and environmentally sound.


    The science tells me that there is no evidence of a release from the storage ponds at C&H Hog Farms.


    One good result from this understandably emotional debate is Arkansas' renewed awareness of the need to protect this valuable natural resource.


    To be certain that we are doing all that we can to preserve the Buffalo, I formed the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee in 2016. This is a nonregulatory committee of five state agencies that have pooled resources to create a forum for those interested in the Buffalo River watershed. The committee has already held one quarterly meeting, and work has progressed on a watershed management plan that will help identify opportunities for protecting and enhancing the Buffalo River watershed.


    The discussion has highlighted that awareness brings action and I have been notified that, with this renewed interest, public and private projects are now being advanced to focus on protection and preservation of the majestic river it is.

    Like many rural and wild natural areas in our country, a wide range of impacts can create natural variations in river observations. Our natural systems are inherently resilient and adaptive. The efforts are focused on all impacts which may occur from development, community, tourism, and agriculture. With our increased awareness, we can responsibly strike the balance of preserving the Buffalo watershed and of basking in its beauty while we live and work there.


    The Buffalo River is important to me as governor and as an Arkansan who has personally enjoyed the river for many years. I am committed to keeping the Buffalo a national resource for generations to come.

    ------------v------------

    Asa Hutchinson is the 46th governor of the state of Arkansas.

    Editorial on 04/14/2017


  • 13 Apr 2017 12:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Fayetteville Free Weekly


    Buffalo River Among Most Endangered Rivers, Report Finds

    By Nick Brothers | April 13, 2017

    A national report ranked the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas among America’s most endangered rivers Tuesday, citing concerns about a nearby large hog operation’s waste polluting the river.

    In the report by American National Rivers, a river preservation advocacy group, the lower Colorado River was ranked the most endangered river on the list, and the Buffalo National River is No. 9 on the list. Rivers are chosen for the list based on the magnitude of the threat, the significance of the river to people and nature and how near a critical decision-point is in the coming year.

    Following the publishing of the report, American National Rivers and its partners called on the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and Gov. Asa Hutchinson to deny C&H hog farm’s operating permit renewal in order to safeguard clean water, the regional natural heritage and the river’s economic value.

    “The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that face a critical decision in the next year,” said Matt Niemerski, Director of Federal Policy for American Rivers. “Millions of gallons of animal waste are threatening the Buffalo National River, which is supposed to be protected for all Americans to enjoy. Now is the time to speak up to make sure decision makers uphold their responsibility to safeguard this special place for today’s communities and future generations.”

    C&H HOG FARM CONTROVERSY

    The Buffalo, the first national river, runs 153 miles through the Ozark natural forest in northern Arkansas. C&H hog farm, a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO), sits five miles from the edge of the Buffalo River near Big Creek and nearby to the Mt. Judea school. About 80,000 pigs a year are processed, and the operation generates waste equivalent to a city of 30,000 people. To manage the waste, the CAFO utilizes a nutrient management plan that involves spraying millions of gallons of liquid hog waste onto pastures and fields for fertilization, some of which lie in the floodplain.

    Water quality indicators, including an unprecedented algal bloom in 2016, E. coli bacterial concentrations exceeding allowable limits and dissolved oxygen concentrations below allowable limits, suggest the Buffalo National River and its fish and wildlife are being negatively impacted by the nutrients produced by the CAFO.

    “Last year’s huge algal bloom was further evidence of the Buffalo National River’s declining water quality caused by excessive agriculture run-off,” said Teresa Turk, co-founder of Ozark River Stewards. “It was heartbreaking to see and document.”

    The fields that are used to spray the waste to fertilize the fields are believed to be located atop karst geology — which means the land has a thin topsoil above very porous rocky (in this case chert and limestone) ground — and would be unable to handle the amount of nutrient spray to properly filter the toxic bacteria from the manure in the soil. In a karst environment, ground water moves rapidly alongside surface water, and can be difficult to predict how and where it flows. So, there is concern that the waste being sprayed near Big Creek could seep into the ground water and pollute the Buffalo River, which is a federally preserved river.

    “Nonpoint source impairment will continue to pollute American waterways until we recognize that concentrated animal feeding operations are actually concentrated animal waste operations that produce more untreated sewage than most ecosystems can handle,” said Lin Wellford, one of three grandmothers involved in a legal appeal for the so-called ‘permit to pollute’ the Buffalo National River watershed. “In the case of regions with fragile karst geology (a porous limestone), the impact of these industrial-scale operations is particularly devastating.”

    However, the hog facility has been approved for all necessary permits by ADEQ to operate. In an environmental assessment, the two agencies that conducted it — the Small Business Association and Farm Service Agency — denied that the hog farm and its NMP fields sit atop karst geology.

    A few independent studies led by UofA hydro-geologist Van Brahana claimed the agencies were incomplete assessments that only considered surface water.


    THREATS TO RIVER STATUS

    Alice Andrews, Conservation Chair at the Ozark Society, said she fears if faced with inaction, the Buffalo River will be placed on the 303(d) list of impaired streams under the Clean Water Act and EPA.

    “I fear that sooner or later, if nothing is done about this CAFO, the magnificent Buffalo National River will no longer meet its designated use as ‘fishable/swimmable,’” she said, “and will lose the extraordinary resource values that led to its designation as a Wild and Scenic River, an Extraordinary Resource Water and an Outstanding National Resource Water.”

    The Buffalo National River is one of the few remaining undammed rivers west of the Mississippi. It was designated as the nation’s first national river by Congress in 1972 to preserve its clean water and other outstanding values. The National Park Service is charged with managing the Buffalo River to, “preserve, conserve, and interpret a clear, clean, free-flowing river and its Ozark Mountain setting of deep valleys, towering bluffs, wilderness and pastoral landscapes.”

    “As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2018, we must recommit ourselves as a nation to uphold safeguards for the Buffalo National River, and all federally protected rivers,” said Niemerski.

    BUDGET CUTS

    The report comes on the heels of proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and National Parks Service from the Trump Administration that will likely further complicate conservation efforts.

    The Buffalo National River managers have felt the impacts of budgetary restriction for a number of years, causing staff shortages, which limit the ability of park biologists to monitor water quality and maintain the many campgrounds and access points along the river. The proposed 12 percent budget reduction for the National Park Service comes as tourism numbers approached record highs last year. In 2015, more than 1.46 million tourists visited the Buffalo National River generating $62 million and employing more than 960 people from tourism related activities.

    Projected cuts of nearly one-third of the overall budget for the EPA pose a threat to river preservation efforts. These cuts to resources and staffing will make it harder to enforce current water safety standards that ensure clean water for recreationalists and protections for endangered species that depend on a healthy environment for their existence.

    “We will continue to fight to rid the Buffalo National River watershed of the threat of potentially devastating pollution that is presented by the presence of the hog farm,” said Gordon Watkins, President of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance.

    Headquartered in Washington, D.C., American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers campaign since 1973.

    For more information about about Buffalo River preservation efforts, visit www.buffaloriveralliance.org, the Buffalo National River Partners at bnrpartners.org or the Ozark River Stewards Facebook page. The Ozark River Stewards will be hosting a Float Protest over Memorial Day weekend, with details to be determined.

  • 12 Apr 2017 2:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Indyweek


    The Neuse River Is Sick, and Advocates Blame the Pork and Poultry Industries 

    By Ken Fine


    Travis Graves has hundreds of pictures that he says prove that over the last five years, hundreds of millions of fish have washed ashore along North Carolina's Neuse River, which runs from northwest Durham into the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. Those fish kills, the Lower Neuse Riverkeeper says, can be traced to algae blooms that feed off nitrogen and phosphorus.

    So last fall, when Hurricane Matthew flooded more than a dozen swine lagoons and several chicken farms in eastern North Carolina—all located within the Neuse River's hundred-year floodplain—sending millions of gallons of nitrogen-rich hog waste and phosphorus-laden chicken excrement into the river, river advocates hit their panic buttons.

    The state's industrial hog farms were already damaging the Neuse by spraying waste onto fields near the river and its tributaries, they allege. But now, the river is in serious trouble.

    On Tuesday morning, American Rivers listed the Neuse, along with Cape Fear River, as the seventh most endangered river in the United States. In its report—"America's Most Endangered Rivers 2017," which highlights "ten rivers whose fate will be decided in the coming year"—the national river conservation organization blamed the millions of gallons of untreated hog feces and urine that North Carolina hog farmers spray onto fields that drain into streams and groundwater, which contaminate the Neuse with nitrogen, antibiotics, and bacteria, as well Hurricane Matthew-related flooding that spewed animal waste into the Neuse.

    And the problem's only going to get worse.

    "The threat these facilities and their antiquated waste operations pose to our waters will only increase as the effects of climate change become more prevalent and North Carolina is subjected to more frequent powerful storms," the report states.

    Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, which owns the vast majority of the more than two hundred thousand hogs living inside the Neuse floodplain, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

    There are currently sixty-two swine facilities that house more than 235,000 hogs and at least thirty poultry farms that house nearly two million chickens located within the Neuse's floodplain. Many of them, Graves says, were underwater in the days after Matthew battered the eastern part of the state.

    "I saw about a dozen lagoons under water, and probably another ten poultry facilities where the barns were underwater," Graves says. "Even if the lagoons weren't breached, you could see that they had been completely flushed. The water in the lagoons was the same color as the floodwaters around it, not that usual pink color you see. All of that ended up right in the Neuse River and is contributing to that excessive nutrient pollution."

    Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Star believes there's a solution. After Hurricane Floyd battered eastern North Carolina in 1999, the legislature authorized the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to provide $18.7 million for forty-three voluntary buyouts of hog and poultry operations located inside the Neuse's floodplain.

    "Thirty-two of those would have flooded during Matthew," Starr says. "Think about that. That's a ton of waste that we prevented from getting into that river."

    After Matthew, advocates are urging legislators to do the same thing.

    In its report, American Rivers argues that "there is a simple and commonsense action that can be taken to reduce the threat to our water resources and communities": simply remove hog and chicken facilities from the Neuse floodplain.

    "The opportunity to accomplish this may never be better than it is now, in the first legislative session following Hurricane Matthew," the report says. "The General Assembly must include funding to restore the Swine Buyout program and include language expanding it to all [concentrated animal feeding operations] in the floodplain as part of the Hurricane Matthew recovery bill."

    "You shut down. Here's your money. It's that simple," Starr says. "And I want to be really clear. This is a voluntary program that is there for these facilities. After Hurricane Floyd, one hundred thirty facilities applied. This was a wanted program."

    The N.C. Pork Council is amenable to such an approach. A spokesman told The News & Observer that the industry "would be supportive of voluntary efforts for a buyout."

    Still, it's unclear whether the legislature will take the Neuse's place on Americans Rivers' list seriously enough to act. But Graves says that by this summer, the repercussions of Hurricane Matthew flooding the hog lagoons and chicken farms near the Neuse will be too intense to ignore.

    "I have serious concerns over what kind of fish kill numbers we're going to see this summer," he says. "I'm anticipating it to be the worst summer for fish kills in the last five years. I'm really hoping this will take the industry in North Carolina out of its bubble a little bit and give it a national reference point. Not only is the river threatened, but also on a nationwide scale, this river is very much endangered."

    And if the legislature fails to act?

    "We're going to continue to see nutrient pollution in the lower Neuse. It's going to increase, as it has for the last thirty years," Graves says. "And that increase is going to continue to fish kills, which is going to hurt tourism, it's going to hurt the commercial fishing industry, and, ultimately, it's going to hurt the future health of our rivers. Ultimately, it could get to the point where places like Kinston and Goldsboro that draw their drinking water directly out of the Neuse River, we'll start to see nitrogen levels that are hazardous to humans." 

    This article appeared in print with the headline "The Neuse Is Sick."

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