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  • 30 Apr 2020 12:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Buffalo River panel told of $5M in federal funding to aid water quality

    by Joseph Flaherty | April 30, 2020 at 3:25 a.m.

    "Just because of the coronavirus and its impact across the board on putting a lot of things on hold, we just wanted to reassure everybody that we would continue to move forward with the efforts," Ward said.

    Meeting by way of a conference call, officials on the committee discussed the potential for improvements to unpaved roads and wastewater systems near the Buffalo River.

    Hutchinson created the committee in September after a drawn-out fight between conservationists and the owners of a hog farm in the watershed. C&H Hog Farms ultimately closed in January in a buyout deal with the state.

    Ward described two recent federal grants related to improving the watershed that have been announced since the Buffalo River committee's last meeting in February.

    In late February, federal agencies said they will work to improve water quality in Northwest Arkansas and southeast Oklahoma using $2.37 million in funding to the Ozark-Ouachita region during fiscal year 2020.

    The planned work relating to fishing, tourism and wildfire mitigation will take place in six regional watersheds as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Joint Chiefs' Landscape Restoration Partnership.

    On April 16, the USDA announced that the Buffalo River Watershed Enhancement Project, led by the department's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Nature Conservancy, will receive close to $2.7 million.

    The project aims to collaborate with landowners in the watershed on conservation practices to improve water quality.

    Ward called them "two very positive announcements" and emphasized that the federal programs are voluntary for landowners.

    "Nothing's being forced on anybody," he said.

    Brent Clark, an official with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, said Buffalo River communities in Searcy and Newton counties will have "exciting" opportunities on the horizon because of the funding. Information on how to sign up and how funding will be distributed is expected shortly, Clark said.

    Other officials described where their work stands regarding unpaved roads and wastewater in the Buffalo River watershed.

    Tony Ramick, an Agriculture Department division manager for nonpoint source management and unpaved road programs, said he was in the Buffalo River watershed Wednesday meeting with officials to view unpaved road sites in Searcy and Newton counties.

    Ramick said they are exploring cost estimates, which the hope can be presented to the committee in the coming weeks.

    Unpaved roads can contribute to reduced water quality because of sediment runoff, as well as airborne dust in rural communities, according to the Agriculture Department.

    Debby Dickson, program fiscal manager at the Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Division, told the committee that they expect to receive funding applications from two communities in the watershed related to wastewater improvement.

    She said the state already has received a funding application from Marble Falls and she expects to receive another by the end of the week from Jasper.

    Dickson added there is ongoing discussion about a septic tank remediation pilot program that might be available in the watershed as well.

    Some 1 million to 2 million people visit the Buffalo National River annually, but for now the river is closed for recreational purposes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Caleb Osborne, chief of staff at the state Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, told committee members that the department has been "kind of overwhelmed" because of the coronavirus outbreak, but he said the virus has "reiterated just how important tourism is to the state and how important it is to our communities."

    The National Park Service closed the river to all visitors except residential and through traffic on April 2 because of the outbreak. The park was closed one day after Hutchinson expressed concern about out-of-state visitors going to the scenic waterway from areas where the coronavirus is more widespread.

    During Wednesday's meeting, Becky Keogh, the secretary of the state Department of Energy and Environment, said the department is considering U.S. Department of Energy opportunities or other federal funds that could support farmers with the deployment of solar energy or similar low-cost options.

    However, a potential grant request has not been finalized, Keogh said.

    She said Arkansas' federal partners are interested in the Buffalo River efforts happening at the state level.

    "They like the leadership the state's taken," Keogh said.

    Federal officials are trying to defer their regulatory authority and "let the state work through these solutions, because they're more effective generally anyway," she added.

    Metro on 04/30/2020

  • 23 Apr 2020 3:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Hill

    Supreme Court hands environmentalists a win in water pollution CASE 

    BY JOHN KRUZEL - 04/23/20 

    The Supreme Court on Thursday sided with environmentalists by giving a broad reading to the types of water-borne pollution covered by the Clean Water Act.

    In a 6-3 decision, the justices held that a permit is required for either a direct discharge of pollutants into federally regulated rivers and oceans or its “functional equivalent.”

    “Suppose, for example, that a sewage treatment plant discharges polluted water into the ground where it mixes with groundwater, which, in turn, flows into a navigable river, or perhaps the ocean,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority."

    “Must the plant’s owner seek an EPA permit before emitting the pollutant?” he continued, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency. “We conclude that [a permit is required] if the addition of the pollutants through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.”

    At issue in the case was whether Maui County in Hawaii violated the Clean Water Act, the landmark 1972 environmental law, by injecting wastewater underground without a permit that then seeped into the Pacific Ocean.

    In siding with environmental groups, Breyer was joined by his fellow liberal justices Ruth Bader GinsburgSonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as more conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts. 

    The decision returns the case, County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to apply the new “functional equivalent” test.

    David Henkin, an attorney with Earthjustice who argued the case on behalf of environmental groups, celebrated the win.

    “This decision is a huge victory for clean water,” he said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has rejected the Trump administration’s effort to blow a big hole in the Clean Water Act’s protections for rivers, lakes, and oceans.” 

    Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissent that was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Justice Samuel Alito wrote a separate dissenting opinion that accused the majority of going beyond the text of the Clean Water Act.

    "If the Court is going to devise its own legal rules, instead of interpreting those enacted by Congress, it might at least adopt rules that can be applied with a modicum of consistency,” Alito wrote. “Here, however, the Court makes up a rule that provides no clear guidance and invites arbitrary and inconsistent application.” 

    Michael Kimberly, an attorney at McDermott Will & Emery who co-authored an amicus brief in support of the Maui County, criticized the majority opinion as setting an “amorphous” new environmental standard.

    “Not only is the decision vague, but it leaves countless responsible landowners potentially liable for discharges from ‘point sources’ to ‘navigable waters’ that aren’t actually anything of the sort,” he said. 

    The case arose in the spring of 2012, when four Hawaii environmental groups sued Maui County to stop a municipal water treatment plant from pouring millions of gallons of wastewater each day into wells running hundreds of feet deep, where the treated sewage combined with groundwater.

    A study showed some of the wastewater later surfaced at popular beach areas, and the environmental groups said pollutants contained in the discharge had interfered with nearby coral reef and triggered invasive algae to bloom. They argued the county was operating in this way without a federal permit, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

    The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals eventually sided with the environmental groups, prompting an appeal to the Supreme Court.

  • 14 Apr 2020 8:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    KY3 TV

    Buffalo National River remains closed, but some not following rules

    By Caitlin Sinett | 

    Posted: Tue 3:05 PM, Apr 14, 2020  | 

    Updated: Tue 4:48 PM, Apr 14, 2020

    BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER, Ark. -- With its 95,000 acres of land, 100 miles of trails, and a 135-mile river, the Buffalo National River seems like the perfect place to avoid people. 

    "It is public land that's here for everybody," said Cassie Branstetter, 

    the Buffalo National River's branch chief of interpretation.

    Apparently, too many people felt that way.

    "We all have to do our part to slow the spread of the virus," Branstetter said.

    The park closed more than a week ago after videos showed a long line of cars parked near the river while people were supposed to be social distancing.

    Still not everyone is following the rules now, rangers reported that some people were still coming into the park a few days ago. Since the park closed, rangers have given out 16 verbal warnings and eight written warnings. About half of those went to people in Arkansas, the others were from out of state.

    "It's just hard for everyone to understand or even to get that information who have been coming for years to the Buffalo National River," Branstetter said.

    She said if a ranger finds someone in the park, they make sure to educate them first.

    "In some instances, very very rare instances, if there are repeated folks who are attempting to not abide by the closure that's in time, there have been a few tickets that have been written," Branstetter said.

    About eight citations have been given out, five to people from Arkansas and three out of state.

    And even though turkey hunting season just kicked off, that's not allowed on park lands either.

    Branstetter said it's up to the state and federal government as to when the park will reopen. 

    "We haven't heard any changes from those entities as of now, but whenever we hear that of course our goal is to open as soon as possible based on those health guidelines," she said.

    It doesn't beat the real thing, but The Buffalo National River also has information and posts you can check out online if you're missing the park at home. Its website is

  • 02 Apr 2020 12:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Buffalo National River closing to visitors because of COVID-19 concerns

    A day after Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson called for its closure, the Buffalo National River superintendent announced the river would close to the public.

    “It breaks my heart to have to close this incredible public park." Mark Foust, Buffalo National River superintendent said in a statement. "It is, however, the right thing to do to protect the people that work here, live here, visit here, and love this place."

    This closure comes a day after the state announced new rules regarding state-run parks. Starting Friday, April 3 at 8:00 a.m. all Arkansas State Parks will move to day use only in an effort to cut down on out-of-state visitors at the parks.

    According to a news release, State highways and county roads that run through Buffalo National River will remain accessible to through or residential traffic. Roads that enter and terminate within the park, are closed to all but residential traffic. 

    The National Park Service will announce on its website when the river will open.

  • 02 Apr 2020 7:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Gov asks for U.S. to close Buffalo National River after visitors raise outbreak fears

    by Bill BowdenAndy Davis 

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday that he had asked the federal government to close the Buffalo National River out of a concern that visitors from outside the state are spreading the coronavirus.

    He also announced the virus had claimed the lives of two more Arkansans, raising the death toll in the state from the pandemic to 10. By Wednesday evening, the number of cases in the state had risen by 60 from a day earlier to 624.

    Fifty-five of the state's 75 counties had cases, including the first ones reported in Carroll and Lee counties.

    Hutchinson's announcement about the northern Arkansas river, designated as a national park, came a day after the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the river's largest resort had closed for a month out of concerns about crowds.

    At least four Arkansas lawmakers and the mayor of Jasper sent letters to Interior Secretary David Bernhard asking for the park's closure.

    "The trail heads are overrun with vehicles from every state in the country, including states with hot spots of covid-19," Republican Sens. Missy Irvin of Mountain View, Scott Flippo of Mountain Home, and Breanne Davis of Russellville said in their letter, dated Tuesday.

    [Read two of the letters here]

    "This has caused a tremendous strain on our local citizens, law enforcement, grocery stores and restaurants who are trying to follow the president's directives and prevent the virus from spreading in their communities," the senators said in the letter.

    Hutchinson also expressed concern Tuesday about visitors to the park from states with larger coronavirus outbreaks than Arkansas' and said he would consult with the National Park Service on the issue.

    On Wednesday, he said 60% of the park's visitors the previous day were from outside the state.

    "You think about that in terms of hot spots across the country, the fact that other parks have closed, it certainly points to the need that if we're going to try to limit out-of-state visitors and the spread of covid-19 that we need to take this step, and I made that recommendation," Hutchinson said.

    The Department of the Interior and the Park Service didn't return a message seeking comment on Hutchinson's request Wednesday.

    The National Park Service has closed some parks because of crowds including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Canyonlands, Arches and Joshua Tree.

    n Arkansas, all campgrounds in the Buffalo National River have already been closed to overnight camping as well as the Gulpha Gorge campground in Hot Springs National Park.

    Pavilions and visitor centers at the Buffalo National River have been closed.

    In his letter to the Interior secretary, state Rep. Keith Slape, R-Compton, said closing the river "will deliver a powerful message to all Americans of the severity of the situation and the importance of the simple yet effective tactic of just staying home."

    "I don't think we were overrun in Jasper, but the people out in the county were very upset," Mayor Jan Larson said said.

    "We're in the middle of a pandemic and there was a total disregard for any rules and regulations. We depend on tourism, but it's got to be managed."

    Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler said he's been in close contact with park Superintendent Mark Foust and County Judge Warren Campbell about the issue.

    "I also spoke with Rep. Slape about it and reached out to Arkansas Tourism asking them to stop the campaign encouraging folks to get outdoors in the remote parts of the state," Wheeler said in a text message. "It overwhelmed our resources this past weekend, not to mention the influx of people from coronavirus hot spots and their interaction with our local folks, straining our grocery supplies, etc."

    But Health Department Secretary Nate Smith reiterated Wednesday that ultraviolet rays from the sun tend to "degrade most viruses," decreasing the risk of transmission.

    "That's why I've encouraged being outside," while keeping a safe distance from other people, he said.

    In another moved aimed at discouraging visitors from other states, Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said the state's parks will be closed to overnight visitors starting Friday, a move that she said is "consistent with 28 other states."

    She said the state also will close certain "trails that are problematic," including Cedar Falls Trail and Cedar Falls overlook at Petit Jean State Park near Morrilton and the East and West Summit trails at Pinnacle Mountain near Little Rock.

    Hurst said where possible, state parks will close their gates to visitors when their parking lots are full and ticket cars parked in unauthorized areas.

    Park rangers also will disperse gatherings, and rangers at less popular parks will be reassigned to busier ones to help manage crowds. Other park workers will educate visitors on keeping a safe distance from each other, she said.

    "If these measures aren't enough to address issues of overcrowding and inadequate social distancing, we'll pivot and make new recommendations to the governor," Hurst said.

    In a news release later Wednesday, Hurst's department said other areas that will be closed include the day-use area on Arkansas 300 at Pinnacle Mountain State Park and the Fossil Flats Mountain Bike and Woody Plants trails at Devil's Den State Park near Winslow.

    The state had already closed park lodges, museums and exhibits and limited camping to self-contained recreational vehicles.

    To limit the spread of the virus, Arkansas has closed public schools through at least April 17, limited restaurants to takeout, drive-thru and delivery, indefinitely closed fitness clubs, hair salons and other businesses, and limited indoor social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

    Hutchinson said that, during a phone call Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, didn't bring up the need for a broader order telling residents to stay at home.

    According to a count by The New York Times, statewide orders have been issued in 37 states, with Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Nevada joining the list Wednesday. Orders are in place in parts of seven other states.

    Birx "was delighted with what we we've done with our social distancing, with our restrictions that we have in place, and also with the success that we're having in terms of reducing the arc and flattening that curve," Hutchinson said.

    He added that such orders seem to be mostly symbolic.

    "Most governors simply broaden the definition of essential services so everything's an essential service," Hutchinson said.

    "We can do that, and we might have to do that because there is some public messaging that if you're not doing something important, you need to to stay home.

    "I think we've conveyed that. I think we've conveyed that from everything we're doing."

    Hutchinson said the state has asked Birx's help in forecasting the spread of the virus in the state and will be sharing data with the White House.

    Although members of the White House coronavirus task force unveiled projections showing that, even with restrictions on movement in place, the virus is expected to kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans, Smith said the Trump administration hasn't provided projections on Arkansas deaths.

    "For Arkansas, we really don't know," Smith said. "It really depends a lot on what we do today.

    "So far our epidemic curve has been flatter than most places, and a lot of this has to do with not just the number of cases that you have but who's getting sick."

    For instance, he said, protecting nursing-home residents has been a top priority.

    Although one of the state's deaths was of a nursing home resident, Smith said covid-19 is known to spread quickly in nursing homes, and "we're very happy that we've not seen that kind of explosive spread in nursing homes where we've had positive cases."

    He said the state is also trying to slow the rate of infections to avoid a surge in hospitalizations "that overwhelms our system."

    "If we can have our peak later than other states, then there'll be more resources, particularly ventilators, available and less need to make difficult decisions," he said.

    Arkansas officials said they had placed an order for 500 ventilators from an overseas manufacturer but ended up losing it after New York put in a much larger order at a higher price.

    Hutchinson said Pence on Wednesday "gave us the confidence that, when we need ventilators we're going to have ventilators."

    "That doesn't stop us from planning and working and trying to acquire what we're trying to acquire, but certainly the vice president and the president understand the future needs that a state like Arkansas has, and they're committed to work with us in meeting those needs," Hutchinson said.

    President Donald Trump said at a briefing Tuesday that the federal government has 10,000 ventilators that it has been "holding back" so it can move them to places they're needed the most.

    Smith said one of the people who died most recently was a central Arkansas resident, and that he did not have "complete information" on where the other one lived. At least one of the two people had underlying health conditions, he said.

    According to the Pulaski County coroner, Virgil Finkey, 63, of North Little Rock, died from covid-19 at 5:37 p.m. Tuesday at Baptist Health Medical Center-North Little Rock.

    The identity of the other person who died wasn't known Wednesday.

    The state's eighth death, announced Tuesday, was of a 73 -year-old woman from Cleburne County, according to the Independence County coroner.

    She died Monday at White River Medical Center in Batesville. The hospital did not provide the woman's name to the coroner.

    All the state's other deaths have been of people age 65 or older except for Tanisha Cotton, 42, of Little Rock, who died Saturday morning at Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton.

    The virus emerged late last year in Wuhan, China, and spreads through respiratory droplets emitted when people sneeze or cough. Symptoms -- fever, cough and shortness of breath -- have been mild for many people. Studies have indicated that the virus can live for days on surfaces.

    The elderly and people with chronic health conditions are considered most at risk of severe illness, including pneumonia.

    Smith said 56 of the state's coronavirus patients were hospitalized Wednesday, down from 64 a day earlier, and 25 were on ventilators, up from 23 a day earlier.

    The new cases included four nursing home residents: two at The Waters at White Hall nursing home and two at The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff.

    That brought the total number of nursing home residents with infections who have tested positive to 51, including four at the Pine Bluff facility and eight at the White Hall home, where at least one worker also has tested positive.

    Five of those who recently tested positive were health care workers, bringing the total number of such workers who have been diagnosed with covid-19 to 84.

    The total number of cases increased by 10 in Pulaski County, to 113, and by nine in Jefferson County, to 49.

    The number went up by two each in Cleburne, Benton and Garland counties, bringing the number to 63 in Cleburne County, 40 in Benton County and 33 in Garland County.

    Faulkner County had 36, with no new cases reported.

    Out of all those who had tested positive as of Wednesday afternoon, 18 were children or teenagers 18 or younger, 170 were 65 or older and 396 were 18-64, Smith said.

    Within the past day, Hutchinson said, the Health Department's lab had tested 147 people, the most it has tested in a single day.

    The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences had tested 65 people, and 691 results came in from commercial labs, Hutchinson said.

    Hutchinson added that Walmart is working with New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics to start drive-thru testing for covid-19 next week in Bentonville.

    Like Walmart's two pilot testing sites in Chicago, this one will serve only health care workers and first-responders showing symptoms of the virus, a Walmart spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

    This third pilot site also will let the Bentonville-based retailer test a new site layout and operational needs, the spokeswoman said. She did not say why Bentonville was selected for the site or where in the city it will be located.

    "In coming weeks, we anticipate supporting additional drive-thru testing sites in areas where state and local officials have identified a need and requested support," the spokeswoman said.

    Quest Diagnostics has a network of labs around the world, including one in Bentonville.

    Information for this article was contributed by Serenah McKay and Eric Besson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

  • 16 Mar 2020 12:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



     Secrecy comes at a steep price

    by Walter E. Hussman Jr. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | March 16, 2020 at 3:07 a.m.

    Several years ago, when business owners applied for a state permit to operate a commercial hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed, Arkansas' environmental regulatory agency buried public notice of the permit somewhere within the bureaucracy's vast labyrinth of files on the Internet.

    Nobody noticed.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality approved the permit, sparking years of public protests and litigation that eventually led to the permanent closure of the operation earlier this year.

    A better option--one that ADEQ later appropriately utilized--was public notice in an Arkansas newspaper. Public notice in the local newspaper in this instance would have cost the state, on average, about $80 per insertion. Citizens would have known about the issue, and regulators may have made a different permitting decision as a result of it.

    Instead, the state paid $6.2 million in taxpayer money to settle with the farm's owners and shut down the operation this year.

    While it may be impossible and unwise to put a price tag on government transparency, the price of secrecy evidently starts at $6.2 million of your money.

    Fortunately, the Arkansas Legislature recognized the pivotal role of Arkansas newspapers as the repository for public notices and enacted legislation in 2013 to require public notice of commercial farming permit applications to be published in newspapers.

    This law is one of hundreds enacted since statehood that compel state agencies, counties, municipalities, school districts and courts to do the public's business in public through legal notices.

    Every state requires government entities to publish public notices in local newspapers. The informed public for centuries now has known to check the newspaper for notices of controversial items like a hog farm in a protected watershed or important day-to-day matters such as new local ordinances or bid solicitations.

    Without newspapers as a repository of public notices, Arkansas residents would be forced to navigate a jumble of websites just to find basic information like a city budget or a polling location. Without newspapers as a repository of public notices, government officials could easily shield items from public view.

    Want to make sure your golf buddy is the only one to bid on a new paving project? Just hide the notice on the city's least-clicked web page. Want to discourage public criticism of a newly enacted ordinance? Cross your fingers that the website link malfunctions or the page won't load correctly (a real and significant problem for the 750,000 Arkansas residents who have no reliable broadband Internet access).

    The Public Notice Resource Center lists four essential elements for public notices: accessibility, independence, verifiability and archivability. Newspapers have always been the only option to consistently attain all four elements, and they always will.

    Newspapers are much more accessible to the general public, especially to senior citizens and to residents in rural areas with spotty Internet service. Even with Internet production of notices, the government has no incentive to make its websites accessible, efficient, or easy to use. The competitive marketplace requires newspapers to have effective websites.

    We take pride in our independence as newspaper publishers. Bad actors can't play favorites with your tax money when everything's right there in black and white.

    That matter-of-fact black-and-white notice has additional value in places like our judicial system, where courts consistently weigh digital evidence with more scrutiny than they do published newspaper notices.

    Those published notices can't be randomly or "conveniently" removed from a website at a moment's notice or suddenly disappear from print. Some courts require proof of publication in the form of an affidavit showing the actual notice and the date of publication.

    It's almost impossible to ensure 100-percent security and the veracity of any online public posting. Hackers can't manipulate or change a printed newspaper, but they certainly can wreak havoc on government websites.

    It's certain that accessibility, independence, verifiability and archivability are the reasons why our Founders established public notice requirements in the very first Congress.

    That commitment to transparency is why Arkansas legislatures since 1836 have done the same, and why Republican Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller signed the state's groundbreaking Freedom of Information Act more than 53 years ago.

    As we observe Sunshine Week, let's remember how government transparency emboldens our people and strengthens our democracy. Let's also remember that transparency is priceless, and the best way to guarantee that is publishing legal notices in newspapers.


  • 15 Mar 2020 12:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Springfield News-Leader

    Taney County officials got no notice that Arkansas hog waste was spread on Missouri ranch

    Wes Johnson, Springfield News-LeaderPublished 11:00 p.m. CT March 15, 2020

    Taney County officials were given no notice that 2.63 million gallons of liquid hog waste from a closed hog farm in Arkansas was being shipped across the state line and spread onto a Taney County ranch.

    The waste came from C&H Hog Farm, which was closed and purchased by the state of Arkansas after an uproar about its location close to the Buffalo National River. Environmental groups feared hog waste from the farm spread as fertilizer on nearby land could eventually contaminate the national river.

    Taney County Commissioner Sheila Wyatt said she got a call from a local resident concerned about numerous large trucks he saw rolling up to a Taney County ranch along the Arkansas border that were spreading hog waste on the ranch pastures.

    Wyatt said she drove to the site and witnessed trucks delivering the waste. She didn't step out of her car but said others who contacted her were complaining about the smell.

    Wyatt said no one notified the county that large amounts of hog waste were headed to Taney County. Wyatt said she wanted to talk to Stone County officials about their land-use regulations, which she believes are stricter than Taney County's. 

    Rick Warren, who lives about four miles from the ranch, said he was concerned that hog waste, if applied too heavily, might eventually wash into the watershed that feeds Bee Creek.

    He called the county for help.

    "I've fished there and swam there my whole life and enjoyed that creek," Warren said Wednesday. "That watershed goes right into Bee Creek and that goes on into Bull Shoals Lake. It's too late now. They've finished hauling it in."

    County observed operation

    John Soutee, Taney County environmental services coordinator, said he visited the property, photographed the trucks and talked with some of the Denali Water Solutionsemployees who were delivering the waste.

    "I could see where they had built up along the highway to handle those big trucks," Soutee said. "They would park the big ones in the field to offload the liquid waste onto buggies pulled by tractors to apply it to the fields."

    He said it appeared the Denali crews were being careful not to spray hog waste on steep slopes. The spray areas were marked with red flags to keep the material off the slopes.

    Soutee described the application areas as pasture land, and he acknowledged that it did stink.

    "There was a strong odor that you could tell was from swine waste," he said.

    Soutee said Taney County has no rules or regulations regarding the application of animal waste as fertilizer. However, Taney County officials asked the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to send someone to take a look.

    Land is on Missouri-Arkansas border

    The land on which the hog waste was being applied is part of several parcels totaling more than 1,200 acres that adjoin the Arkansas-Missouri state line, east of JJ highway.

    Soutee said county land records show the property is owned by "Maier, Peter et al, c/o Jim Berry of Omaha, Arkansas."

    The News-Leader was unable to reach Berry to ask how Arkansas officials settled on the Taney County tracts for disposal of hog waste.

    However, Mike Dortch, operations coordinator with Denali Water Solutions, said the Taney County ranch was located "by us going by knocking on doors."

    "The terrain was part of it, but we were also looking for the closest acceptable site away from the (Buffalo River) watershed," Dortch said. "This is what we do, 24/7, weather permitting."

    In an email, Arkansas environmental officials previously told the News-Leader that “(t)he liquid animal waste in the ponds (at the Arkansas hog farm) will be removed and taken to a permitted site outside of the Buffalo River watershed that is authorized to accept the waste.”

    At the time, ADEQ did not respond to a second News-Leader query asking where that "permitted site" was located.

    ADEQ contracted with Denali Water Solutions to haul away the liquid hog waste from the hog farm's two lagoons. The $749,019 cleanup contract is not part of the $6.2 million farm acquisition cost.

    Teresa Gallegos, a spokeswoman for Denali Water Solutions, said the company applied 2.63 million gallons of liquid hog waste to 199 acres of "Bermuda grass farmland."

    That's 13,235 gallons of waste per acre.

    "The material is a source of fertilizer," Gallegos said. "We land apply based on crop nutrient uptake in accordance with MU Extension recommendations."

    Gallegos said the hog-waste spreading from the Arkansas hog farm has concluded.

    Missouri DNR responds

    Cindy Davies, Missouri DNR's Southwest Regional Office director, said DNR doesn't plan to do any monitoring near the Taney County site "since we did not see any indication of over-application."

    "The specifics of the investigation can be provided once our investigation report is complete," Davies said in an email. "The Department does not have application rate requirements for this sort of situation but we do provide recommendations."

    Davies said DNR visited the site several times and found no issues with the way the hog waste was being applied or the volume being placed on the fields.

    "Regarding the volume, we do want to make sure that they do not apply so much that it runs off the property and causes water quality issues," Davies said. "As we noted previously, we did not see this issue."

    She added that there are no laws that prevent animal waste from being taken from one state to be applied in another state.

    "Animal waste must be managed appropriately whether it is handled by the producer or exported to another property via a third party such as Denali," Davies said.

    "Companies such as Denali are allowed to apply this material as a soil amendment on fields, with approval from landowners, as long as they follow certain requirements such as preventing runoff and ensuring they do not cause pollution to waters of the state."

    Davies said the land application of liquid hog waste for agricultural purposes does not require a permit in Missouri.

    "The land used for land application is under an agreement between the company applying the waste and the land owner," she said.

    "We are not aware of the permit that Arkansas DEQ references but if the land owner agrees to accept the waste then it would be considered an authorized site."   

  • 06 Mar 2020 4:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    KY3 TV

    Taney County residents concerned about water contamination as hog waste is spread as fertilizer

    TANEY COUNTY, MO. -- The phrase "not in my back yard" is coming to life along the Missouri-Arkansas border. Thousands of gallons of hog waste are being spread in Taney County as fertilizer.

    It's all coming from a hog farm that shut down in Arkansas because of environmental concerns over that waste.

    Donald Lee Buckler lives along State Highway JJ, near the state line. He says trucks hauling the fertilizer have been passing his home for weeks. 

    "That's enough to fertilize the whole state of Missouri," Buckler said. "Day after day, 15 or 20 trucks going by, dumping."

    He and some of his neighbors are worried the waste will make its way into their water.

    "It's our drinking water. It's the water we clean up in, shower in, wash our clothes in, fish in," Buckler said.

    Similar concerns went on for years in Newton County, Arkansas. C&H Hog Farms, Inc. was shut down in the summer of 2019 over fears its waste was polluting the Buffalo National River.

    ​"Mess their own backyard up, not ours," Buckler said. 

    However, even though many people who live along State Highway JJ don't like what's going on. Officials with The Missouri Department of Natural Resources say no laws are being broken. Environmental Specialist Ashley McDaniel visited the site after the DNR received complaints from neighbors.

    "We are making sure they're meeting setback limits, they're not land-applying on steep slopes. It's a more level area, they're evenly distributing the waste. So, the plants can absorb the nutrients from that," McDaniel said. 

    The farm isn't required to report how many trucks are carrying waste, but KY3 News learned two lagoons at the farm could hold up to 2 million gallons of liquid hog feces and urine.

    "It is partially treated because it does go into a lagoon. The lagoon serves as a treatment for the waste to allow for solids to settle, then you have the liquid on top," McDaniel explains. 

    McDaniel says using animal waste, like hog or chicken waste, as fertilizer is not rare. 

    "Land-application is very common practice. It is the original fertilizer. It's been used for hundreds of years all over the world," McDaniel said. 

    Even so, neighbors along Highway JJ wish more rules were in place to protect their homes from possible pollution.

    "It is just not right," Buckler said. 

    While the DNR found no violations at this site, McDaniel says they always encourage people to call them if they have concerns about improper fertilization or other issues relating to Missouri's natural resources.

    "We appreciate the concerns of the citizens. We always look into these concerns to make sure that application is occurring correctly," McDaniel said. 

    The hog farm in Arkansas opened back in 2013. It operated there until it closed last June.

  • 12 Feb 2020 8:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Buffalo River efforts touted  

    Groups honor governor for his work to protect waterway

    by Joseph Flaherty

    Representatives of four conservation and outdoors groups recognized Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday for his efforts to protect the Buffalo National River.

    The Ozark Society, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club presented the governor with a plaque during the Southeast Tourism Society's conference at the Marriott hotel in Little Rock.

    At the beginning of last year, Hutchinson established three key goals aimed at protecting the Buffalo River, a popular 135-mile waterway in northern Arkansas that was incorporated into the National Park System in 1972 when Congress established it as the nation's first national river.

    The goals were to buy out a large-scale hog farm that was operating within the river's watershed, to establish a permanent moratorium against large-scale animal-feeding operations within the watershed, and to create a public-private grant program to support improved water management practices for farmers.

    "Because of your support and the support of the General Assembly, we accomplished all three," Hutchinson said Tuesday.

    Chief among those goals was addressing the drawn-out battle between the owners of C&H Hog Farms and environmentalists who were concerned that the farm posed a threat to the river.

    In 2012, Gov. Mike Beebe's administration issued a permit that allowed the farm to be located on Big Creek, about 6.6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo River, and allowed it to house up to 6,503 hogs.

    That led to a lengthy battle between the farm's owners and conservationists, who expressed concern about the possibility of manure -- applied as fertilizer -- running off the property and into the water, or about the possibility of a major storm event overfilling the ponds that held thousands of gallons of hog manure.

    Research paid for by the state, conducted by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, has not concluded that C&H negatively affected water quality in Big Creek or the Buffalo River.

    The state and the farm's owners agreed to a buyout that led to the farm's closure last month. The $6.2 million deal removed the hogs from the farm and transferred the property to the state as a conservation easement. The Nature Conservancy contributed $1 million to the state's payment to the farm's owners, on top of $3.7 million from the governor's rainy-day fund and $1.5 million from the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

    When the deal was announced last summer, Hutchinson also directed environmental regulators to make permanent a moratorium on large-scale animal-feeding operations within the watershed, which has been in place since 2014.

    The proposed ban awaits final approval by legislative committees and the Arkansas Pollution, Control and Ecology Commission, which voted in the fall to extend a public comment period until Jan. 22.

    Gordon Watkins of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, a group created specifically to oppose the hog farm's operation, said that while a permanent ban may still face opposition from farming interests in the Legislature, Hutchinson's support is significant.

    "The fact that he's throwing his weight behind it should carry the day," Watkins said by telephone Tuesday. "We're hopeful of that."

    Alice Andrews, conservation chair for the Ozark Society, also expressed support for a permanent ban on animal operations and for the establishment of the Buffalo River Conservation Committee, which was created by executive order in fall 2019.

    "Natural scenic beauty matters," Andrews told Hutchinson before presenting him with the plaque Tuesday. "It's about the quality of life. It is our hope that your example will inspire leaders across the Southeastern region and beyond to protect their precious natural resources for future generations."

    Metro on 02/12/2020

  • 11 Feb 2020 5:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Gov. Hutchinson tells tourism group goals met with Buffalo River

    by Steve Brawner (BRAWNERSTEVE@MAC.COM)

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday (Feb. 11) he created three goals at the beginning of 2019 regarding the C&H Farms hog operation along the Buffalo River watershed, and all three were accomplished.

    Speaking to the Southeast Tourism Society’s Connection Conference in Little Rock, Hutchinson said he wanted to buy out the owners of the farm in a fair transaction. Second, he wanted to make permanent the moratorium against concentrated animal feeding operations in the watershed. And third, he wanted to create a grant program with public and private dollars for farmers and municipalities to have better water management practices within the watershed. All three have been achieved.

    “It was a good year for the Buffalo River,” Hutchinson said. “It was a good year for the next generation of those that will enjoy our outdoors here in this state from all over the United States, that will come and see nature, that will see the God of creation, that will see and enjoy something that has been there throughout time.”

    The governor after his speech was presented a framed photo of a river otter from the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, Ozark Society and the Arkansas Canoe Club. He received a prolonged standing ovation as he left the meeting.

    The Southeast Tourism Society seeks to support the travel and tourism industry in the southeastern United States.

    Hutchinson announced June 13 that the state had entered into a voluntary agreement to pay Richard and Phillip Campbell and Jason Henson $6.2 million to close their concentrated animal feeding operation located 6.6 miles from Big Creek, which flows into the Buffalo National River. Of that, at least $5.2 million will come from the taxpayers, with the rest coming from private donations through The Nature Conservancy.

    The agreement prohibits using any building on the property for “the feeding, breeding, raising or holding of animals” that is “specifically designed as a confinement area where manure may accumulate.”

    The three received a permit in 2012 allowing them to raise approximately 6,500 hogs. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality twice rejected the farm’s application for a new operating permit, citing water quality issues and inadequate testing. But the owners appealed in circuit court and filed a civil lawsuit.

    Opponents feared the farm’s waste was polluting the nation’s first national river and campaigned to close it.

    Hutchinson complimented advocates who attended town hall meetings and politely asked him to protect the river. He mentioned by name former U.S. Rep. Ed Bethune, who was in attendance and who wrote many letters in support of the river. Hutchinson said he is a “lover of the Buffalo River myself” and has floated it and watched its recent history unfold. He called it “a great national asset.”

    Hutchinson told attendees that tourism is the state’s second leading economic driver. Outdoor recreation in Arkansas generates $9.7 billion in consumer spending, supports 96,000 jobs and creates $2.5 billion in wages and salaries.

    He referenced a recent $20 million matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation that, when paired with federal grants, will complete the 84.5-mile Delta Heritage biking and pedestrian trail from Lexa to Arkansas City. He said he has created an advisory council that is working to pass bicycle-friendly legislation. Also, Act 650, passed in the 2019 legislative session, allows bicyclists to regard stop signs as yield signs, and red lights as stop signs.

Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization

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