MASTERSON ONLINE: Saving our Buffalo
Many Arkansas rightfully wondered a year ago if the hog factory our state wrongheadedly permitted into the fragile Buffalo National River watershed in 2012 would forever be spraying millions of gallons of raw waste onto fields along a major tributary of the river flowing six miles upstream of the Buffalo.
Thankfully, that answer came not long ago when Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced C&H Hog Farms would be bought out, closed and cleaned up at a fair price. His decision and announcement brought squeals of delight and some tickled-pink rejoicing across Arkansas.
Little wonder since many thousands among us, along with more than a million out-of-state visitors, each year enjoy the magnificence and beauty of the country's first national river flowing through the heart of the Ozarks.
And now, a story by reporter Emily Walkenhorst says the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission is moving to establish protections that would ensure medium and large hog farms are permanently banned from setting up shop in this fragile and porous watershed.
Farms are federally classified as small, medium or large. Medium facilities are defined as 750 or more swine of over 55 pounds, or 3,000 or more hogs weighing 55 pounds or less. Such meat producers have been banned in the watershed since 2014, but only only temporarily, pending the conclusion of the Big Creek Research and Extension Team's research on C&H's impact on Big Creek and the Buffalo River, Walkenhorst wrote.
While many remain pleased by the prospect of a permanent ban in the Buffalo watershed, there lingers the relevant question of how our Department of Environmental Quality (cough) could have permitted this factory into a region this same department actively protected by moratorium just two decades ago.
Who in the agency quietly helped shepherd this destructive plan through to completion? What outside lobbying interests also helped push it? Why would public employees at the time assist Cargill in making it happen, especially without the agency director at the time even knowing her department had issued the permit?