Buffalo River 


  • 20 May 2019 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    May 20, 2019 at 1:52 a.m. 

    We take it personally

    The recent guest column by Warren Carter of the Arkansas Farm Bureau justifies his ardent defense of C&H Hog Farms by claiming that "it's personal" to him. Well, it's personal, too, for the rest of us who want to preserve the Buffalo National River in its unpolluted state.

    Mr. Carter is a master of obfuscation, using diversionary emotional language to make it appear that Bad Old State Government is out to get those struggling farmers who just want to be left alone to raise a few hogs. Mr. Carter conveniently omits that the volume of untreated swine manure that fills those waste lagoons is roughly equivalent to the sewage output of a small city, and that its presence is a clear and present danger to the health of the Buffalo.

    Mr. Carter submits that there is no scientific basis for the claim that the concentrated hog waste will harm the Buffalo. It's clear he has not looked at the studies that show the fragile porosity of the subsurface karst geology and its commensurate vulnerability to penetration of deleterious nutrients, hormones and chemicals. The impact of this subsurface pollution, in addition to surface runoff, is potentially catastrophic.

    Whether it was intentional or procedurally negligent, the state erred in issuing the original permit. We have some empathy for the C&H owners, but it's hard to look at the way their permit got issued. The Farm Bureau would better serve its members by offering to assist in developing standards for concentrated animal feeding operations placed in locations environmentally suitable for their operations and their waste.

    If C&H was shut down tomorrow, it would take half a generation for the porous subsurface karst rock to naturally clear itself. The state is right to pursue shutting down this facility posthaste.

    In the meantime, the citizens of Arkansas and all lovers of the Buffalo River everywhere will take preservation of this precious national resource personally. Shut it down!


    Little Rock

  • 16 May 2019 8:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Democrat Gazette

    OPINION - Guest writerIt's personal

    Why Farm Bureau supports C&H;

    by Warren Carter Special to the Democrat-Gazette |

    Recent guest writers have attempted to vilify Arkansas Farm Bureau while questioning our involvement in the struggle to keep C&H Hog Farms in Newton County open and operating. The reason we are involved and continue to support this fight is simple: We speak for Arkansas farmers and ranchers, and we proudly stand up for those farm families who work hard to provide food for the rest of us, care for their land and animals, and play by the rules.

    That is a precise description of the three young farm families who own C&H.

    A wolf has come knocking on their door, and it comes in the form of the state of Arkansas, which is trying to shut them down. For no reason. With no violations noted. Not one single citation. Nothing, frankly, other than some very vocal folks who don't like where that farm is located and believe if they scream loud and long enough and clutter the conversation with falsehoods, they can make the farm go away. The state of Arkansas is spending taxpayer dollars on court costs, legal maneuvers and state agency effort to shut down this family farm.

    Let's be very clear, this case is about the government's efforts to move these families off their farm without any credible scientific evidence that their farm has caused harm to the Buffalo River. A recent National Park Service scientific symposium, in fact, declared that its scientific data don't support the farm as the source of any degradation of the Buffalo River.

    Let me explain where I'm coming from and why I feel so strongly about these families. I grew up on a small hill country farm in east-central Mississippi. It is like much of Arkansas in many ways. I went to school at Mississippi State to become a mechanical engineer, because at the time I thought I couldn't wait to get away from farming.

    The early 1980s was a difficult time in agriculture, with a trade embargo, droughts and financial liquidity a real problem for farmers nationwide. At that time, a wolf came to our door in the name of the Production Credit Association. Money had been borrowed based on overly inflated land values, and when those values plummeted in the early '80s, our farm was in a financial bind. There were two or three years when things were especially tight. My mother was teaching school, and my dad took a side job doing survey work for the Soil Conservation Service to help make ends meet.

    They fought and struggled to stay on that farm. I watched my mom and dad swallow their pride, hold their heads up, and demonstrate integrity and dignity through the way they carried themselves. I saw my dad age about 15 years in the span of less than three. Ultimately, they survived, and thankfully we still have most of that small farm in our family today.

    While watching them struggle, I decided what I really wanted to do with my life was to help farmers like my mother and father. I changed my degree to agricultural economics, earned a graduate degree in that same subject, and moved to Arkansas in 1987 to work for the Farm Bureau.

    That brings me to this hog farm and the three families who operate it. They are being unfairly attacked because they are trying to make a living at home on their farm, which consists of two barns and two waste lagoons. It is a family farm, certainly not a factory, despite what one breathless columnist might call it.

    This issue is about Jason and Tana Henson. This is about Phillip and Julie Campbell. This is about Richard and Mary Campbell. About six years ago, they went to the state of Arkansas and applied for an operating permit. The state of Arkansas gave it to them. As a result of that, they took out a significant loan, pooling their assets and offering those as collateral for their family hog farm in Newton County. They set about doing things the right way, implementing practices to ensure they protected the environment and posed no threat to any water system or environmental condition anywhere around them.

    I can only imagine what those three families are going through now, with the wolf at their door. I imagine it's very similar to what my mom and dad went through 35 years ago. You see, this is about two brothers and a cousin and their efforts to use their farm within the parameters of the law, as defined by the state. That's why we are going continue to stand by these young farm families and this family farm.

    It's personal to me.


    Warren Carter is executive vice president of Arkansas Farm Bureau, the state's largest agricultural advocacy organization.

    Editorial on 05/16/2019

  • 09 May 2019 3:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Buffalo can't wait;  Hog farm near river must close

    by Teresa Turk and Lin Wellford Special to the Democrat-Gazette | Today at 3:02 a.m.


    Earth Day celebrations are intended to remind us of our collective duty to care for the planet that sustains us. It's all the more poignant that Earth Day 2019 found Arkansas still grappling with the ongoing impacts of an industrial-scale hog operation within the watershed of the Buffalo National River.

    In 2016, a 20-mile algal bloom was documented. Last year it was 90 miles. This spring, algae was sighted in various locations as early as March. Algae flourishes where nutrients are plentiful. The rampant growth being seen the past few years indicates that something has suddenly tipped out of balance.

    Governor Hutchinson, the Buffalo can't wait! It needs your help now!

    Along with algae, samples of potentially toxic cyanobacteria were found. But these are not the only concerns. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality found that water monitoring results indicated high E. coli and low dissolved oxygen, factors that led to designating portions of Big Creek and a stretch of the Buffalo, around the confluence with Big Creek, as impaired. These two segments of waterway line up with the dye test results that revealed underground transmission is widespread in the area around the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).

    JBS, the Brazil-based corporation that owns the hogs, has demonstrated little concern for the health and safety of a distant American river. But our governor should.

    According to publicly available soil test results, the application fields for C&H Hog Farms are over-saturated with phosphorus. This CAFO has been denied a new permit based on evidence that it is located in an unsuitable area, along with a host of other deficiencies. Farm Bureau and other special interests are funding the long, drawn-out and complicated legal maneuvers over whether C&H Hog Farms can continue to operate in the watershed.

    Meanwhile, the river is being steadily poisoned by excess phosphorus and pathogens as surely as if it has a needle stuck in its arm. Recovery cannot start until the steady influx of hog waste stops. Even then, it could take decades for the phosphorus in in the soil to flush out of the river.

    Governor, the river can't wait.

    In 2017 the Buffalo River made the list of America's Most Endangered Rivers. Now, two years later and with algal blooms dramatically increasing, C&H continues to produce and apply 2.7 million gallons of waste every year. That's more than 15 million gallons so far sprayed onto fields that drain into the Buffalo River.

    The citizens of Arkansas as well as people all over the country have demanded immediate action to protect this national treasure. Our governor has the authority and duty to declare an emergency and require C&H to cease operations. Please step up, Governor. The river is running out of time. Farm Bureau doesn't answer to the citizens of Arkansas. You do. If you can't protect this storied waterway, then not one river, stream or reservoir is safe in Arkansas.

    Will it take the collapse of the river's ecosystem, decimation of the tourism business, miles of dead and dying fish, or the entire 135 miles of river smothered in algae?

    Governor, what are you waiting for?


  • 26 Apr 2019 3:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Harrison Daily Times

    Data doesn't support Buffalo National River pollution theories

    Staff Report news@harrisondaily.com 

    • Apr 26, 2019

    The junior high school science fair asks students to form a hypothesis and then use scientific methods to determine if the hypothesis is correct. In some cases the hypothesis is found to be incorrect or the scientific evidence is found to be lacking.

    Where the Buffalo National River is concerned, scientists, park staff, landowners and other stakeholders have made their hypotheses on what is impacting the river's water quality. During a science symposium on water-related research held Tuesday evening at the Durand Center, it was found that some of the research that has been conducted is inconclusive.

    The symposium was held to share water quality data that has been collected to date, said Shawn Hodges, an ecologist for the Buffalo National River.

    He said some of the water quality studies date back about 30 years. The presentations provide an at-the-moment look at the investigations that have been conducted by a wide range of public and privately funded research.

    Hodges said he believes hydrology plays a big role in how the river has evolved and continues to evolve. There has been recent flooding on the river and now it is trying to reset itself, he said.

    Impacts on the river could be further investigated, he agreed, particularly the effects of less water being drawn out of the local aquifer due to the Ozark Mountain Regional Water Authority now serving community water districts within the Buffalo River watershed with drinking water drawn out of Bull Shoals Lake and transmitted via pipeline. Those same customers are now discharging greater amounts of waste water.

    Some conservation organizations blame the C&H Hog Farms located near Big Creek, which flows into the Buffalo National River for polluting the river. Scientists have been studying the river above Big Creek and below.

    A US Geological Survey says in a study conducted over two years that researchers didn't see any statistical differences in the nutrient concentrations between upstream or downstream. Scientists say a lot more data is needed before they come to a definitive conclusion.

    During the drop-in poster session, analysts explained the information charts attached along a wall. One large poster described studies of bacterial counts and metabolic activity from water samples along the Buffalo National River. These studies were conducted by the US Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center of Lafayette, Louisiana, and the University of Louisiana along with other academic institutions.

    The joint study conducted in 2017 investigated nutrients in water at six sites along the river. Water samples were taken from Big Creek where the confined animal feeding operation is located, as well as two upstream sites and three downstream sites on the river. Water samples were collected monthly and shipped on ice overnight for laboratory processing.

    The poster describes the scientific processes used to analyze the samples.

    The groups' hypothesis was that metabolic activity would differ among sites along this section of the river. Bacterial counts were significantly different among sites for 73% of the monthly samplings and 45% of those were highest at Big Creek.

    Metabolic activity was significantly different among sites for 94% of the samplings, with the Big Creek site showing the lowest activity for 75% of those months. Generally, bacterial metabolic activity close to Big Creek was depressed compared with the other sites. Additional analyses to examine relationships among water quality parameters and fecal indicators are planned.

    The poster shows the teams' conclusions.

    • Although higher bacterial metabolic activity was hypothesized to occur at Big Creek due to likely introduction of organic nutrients into BNR from the swine CAFO, Big Creek showed the lowest metabolic activity for 71% of the months analyzed.

    • Overall bacterial metabolic activity at all sites was lower in the colder, winter months.

    • Highest live bacterial counts were generally associated with local rain events.

    • The results presented in this study are part of a 19-month project and will be combined with other environmental water-quality data and fecal bacterial indicators.

    • Nutrients/organics and bacteria may originate from other sources in the Big Creek watershed.

    Another chart prepared by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission showed documentation of filamentous algae occurrences in the river dating back as far as a 1974 survey. The report focuses on the seasonal dominance of two genera, Spirogyra and Oedogonium.

    Over the past two years filamentous algae occurrence has increased in the lower half of the river. September 2016 brought the first significant public reporting of a filamentous event extending 11 miles near Maumee access. By the end of 2016 the filamentous coverage was approximately 20 miles. Filamentous algae from the 2016 event were dominated by Oedogonium. In July 2017, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality released a browser and mobile Nuisance Algae Reporting tool to track occurrence, extent and duration of filamentous algae events. Starting in August 2017 and extending for four months, ADEQ received 17 notifications of large extents of filamentous algae; all of which were in the Buffalo River or its tributaries. By November 2017, reports extended from Mt. Hersey to below Rush access into the Lower Wilderness Area. Findings showed it was primarily Spirogyra and Oedognimum. In 2018, the first report was received in May with a total of 36 notifications received covering approximately 90 river miles.

    A historical timeline marks reports of algae beginning in 1975 when it was dominate in late spring and summer.

    Copious Spirogyra in deep pools were noted along with blue-green algae in 1978.

    Numerous algae clumps were reported in 1991.

    A 10-year water quality report noted in 1997 that phytoplankton increased turbidity during base flow conditions.

    In 2004 the Buffalo National River Water Resource Management plan noted limited research on algae noting blooms have posed problems extensive enough to warrant complaints. Spirogyra was most common, occurring in dense, floating mats in the middle to lower river.

    In 2016 blooms were reported Sept. 15 in a stretch of river 20 miles long.

    Blooms were reported in 2017, first on Aug. 7, 70 miles long.

    The last entry on the chart was a bloom first reported May 15, 2018. It stretched 90 miles long. Thirty-six individual reports were made.

    No direct cause for any of the algae outbreaks were determined.

  • 21 Apr 2019 8:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Endangered river

    by Mike Masterson | Today at 1:47 a.m

    Our treasured Buffalo National River has made the nonprofit American Rivers' annual report, "America's Most Endangered Rivers," for a second year. The suffering stream ranked eighth in the latest report's Top Ten list; it was last included in 2017.

    What a disgrace that our state has created this travesty, thereby continuing to jeopardize the magnificent river USA Todayreaders called our state's greatest natural attraction. The malfeasance has been unbelievable to watch.

    The 2019 report asserts the Buffalo is imperiled by the existence of the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) at Mount Judea.

    "In 2012, a 6,500-head hog CAFO was permitted and constructed by C&H Hog Farms Inc. without public debate or input," it reads. "The hog CAFO, including massive indoor feedlots and two manure-filled ponds, sits on a hill along one of Buffalo National River's main tributaries, Big Creek, less than six miles from the mainstem of the river.

    "Each year, millions of gallons of liquid hog waste are sprayed onto pastures and fields, some of which lie in a floodplain. This ... is particularly harmful where topsoil is thin and the underlying geology is a porous limestone (karst) that is prone to fissures, sinkholes and rapid transmission of groundwater into the water table.

    "In fact, dye-tracing studies around the hog CAFO have shown that water can travel under mountains across 13 miles of the watershed. Consequently, contaminants in the manure fields and ponds are having far-reaching effects, including polluting groundwater wells and threatening endangered species," the report continues.

    "In the past three years, unprecedented algal blooms have stretched over 70 miles downstream of the CAFO. In 2018, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) identified Big Creek and sections of the Buffalo River as impaired due to high E. coli bacterial concentrations and low dissolved oxygen."

    The state denied a new permit for the CAFO after the Buffalo's 2017 listing and ordered that it be shuttered, but the owners have fought the issue in court. Depositions showed C&H failed to provide a geological assessment, draft an emergency response plan or follow other legal requirements for waste management.

    The spray fields' nutrient levels far exceed those required to avoid water contamination because of incorrect carrying capacity estimates. That includes excessive phosphorus that can bind with soil enter the waterway during heavy rain, and leach underground, the report adds.

    The report also mentions attorneys: "In an unprecedented move, lawyers for corporate industrial agriculture interests are questioning the right of ADEQ to do its job. As the state's designated arm of the Environmental Protection Agency, ADEQ is the sole regulator of permits designed to protect the waters of the state. ADEQ has denied the new permit for this facility.

    "Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson faces pressure from agricultural lobbyists who want to frame this as a 'right to farm' issue. The American Farm Bureau is a key player in this legal fight, and they must be called to account for defending an operation that should never have been established in such a sensitive and invaluable place."

    The concerned folks at American Rivers concluded by saying Hutchinson can be assured he has public opinion behind him if he takes a firm stand for preserving the endangered river, adding, "Science, not greed, should be the deciding factor.

    "The governor must demand the closure of this facility now. The Buffalo National River ... belongs to every citizen of our country. Continued support from a well-informed and concerned citizenry will be necessary to stop this power grab by a corporation that clearly does not care about the health and well-being of this national treasure."

    Voiced your opinion yet?

  • 18 Apr 2019 10:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Baxter Bulletin

    Buffalo makes list of 'endangered' rivers

    SCOTT LILES, Baxter BulletinPublished 9:46 p.m. CT April 16, 2019 | Updated 4:05 p.m. CT April 17, 2019

    The Buffalo National River has been included on list of “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” by a prominent river-advocacy group for the second time in three years.

    The nonprofit organization American Rivers ranked the Buffalo River as the nation’s eighth most-endangered waterway in its 2019 Most Endangered Rivers report, which was released Tuesday. The river was previously named the ninth most-endangered river in 2017 and did not make the group’s list in 2018.

    The 153 mile-long Buffalo was the first waterway to be designated as a National River by Congress in 1972. The lower 135 miles flow within the boundaries of an area managed by the National Park Service and is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states, according to the NPS.

    In 2017, more than 1.47 million people visited the Buffalo to camp, canoe, hike or fish, American Rivers reported in the 2019 assessment of the river. The Buffalo River supports more than 300 species of wildlife, including beaver, elk, black bear, smallmouth bass and catfish. The federally-endangered gray bat, Indiana bat and Northern long-eared bat are all found in the karst caves flanking the river.

    The Most Endangered Rivers report is an annual list first created by American Rivers in 1984 that highlights waterways whose health and future is at a tipping point. Rivers are selected based on three criteria: The river is of regional or national significance to people and wildlife; the river and communities that depend on it are under significant threat, especially in light of a changing climate; and that each river on the list will face a major decision in the coming year that the public can help influence.

    The Buffalo is threatened by the continued operation of a large-scale hog farm operating on one of the river’s main tributaries, the river-advocacy group states.

    “The (Buffalo’s) clean water, recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife are threatened by a nearby concentrated animal feeding operation generating waste equivalent to that of 30,000 people,” American Rivers writes in its 2019 report on the Buffalo.

    That operation, a 6,500-head hog farm operated by C&H Hog Farms of Vendor, opened in 2012 along Big Creek, about 7 miles from where the creek flows into the river. Liquid waste from the hogs is retained in two large waste ponds and is sprayed across 600 acres of adjacent farmland as fertilizer.

    Conservation groups have opposed the operation of the hog farm within the river’s watershed, arguing that the hog manure produced by the farm increases the risks of polluting the river.

    In 2017, the hog farm’s original five-year operating permit expired and its application for a second operating permit was declined by state. The hog farm has continued to operate since that decision as the farm’s owners, cousins Jason Henson, Phillip Campbell and Richard Campbell, have appealed the state’s decision.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality listed Big Creek and the Buffalo River as “impaired” in 2018 because of elevated E. coli levels and diminished dissolved oxygen levels in parts of the two bodies of water. An “impaired” tag means at least one of several negative elements in the water exceeds water-quality standards.

    A 14-mile stretch in the middle of the Buffalo contained excessive amounts of E. coli, but the remainder of the river was not impaired, according to data collected through early 2017. About 15 of the 19 miles of Big Creek were also impaired because of E. coli, and the final 3.7 miles of the creek before it flows into the Buffalo was listed as impaired due to low dissolved oxygen levels.

    Volunteers have recently begun documenting the growth of large algal blooms downstream of the hog farm, with measurements being used to as baseline to compare future growth. 

    Jessie Green, executive director of the White River Waterkeeper nonprofit organization, told The Bulletin last year that the river’s algae has been increasing in recent years, but could not specifically say why.

    “We’re not sure why its growing. It could be weather patterns, it could be hydrology,” she said. “Nutrients are a key player, no doubt — you can’t have growth without the nutrients — but it’s not something that we know right now.”

    No research has directly linked the farm’s operation with the Buffalo River watershed’s water-quality problems. Big Creek has less E. coli contamination downstream of the hog farm than it does upstream, the Arkansas Farm Bureau has noted in defense of the hog farm.

    In its “What must be done” section of its 2019 report about the Buffalo, American Rivers calls upon Gov. Asa Hutchinson to demand that the hog farm be closed.

    “Hutchinson faces pressure from agricultural lobbyists who want to frame this as a ‘right to farm’ issue … Gov. Hutchinson needs to know that he will be supported by public opinion if he stands up for the river,” the nonprofit group writes in its report. “The Buffalo National River flows in Arkansas, but it belongs to every citizen of our country.”

    Other endangered rivers identified in the 2019 report include the New Mexico’s Gila River; the Hudson River in New York; the Upper Missouri River in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri; Washington’s Green-Duwamish River; Alaska’s Chilkat River; the South Fork Salmon River in Idaho; Ohio’s Big Darby Creek and Alaska’s Stikine River.

    Visit www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers to view the 2019 Most Endangered Rivers report.

  • 13 Apr 2019 10:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MASTERSON ONLINE: Protecting the riverby Mike Masterson 

    | Today at 1:52 a.m

    Reader Nancy Baxter was among those expressing disdain for GOP state Sen. Gary Stubblefield's Senate Bill 550 that Gov. Asa Hutchinson rightly sidetracked late last month.

    That's the Farm Bureau-embraced bill I'm sure many readers recall that would have transferred authority for issuing permits and oversight of hog factories from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) to the ill-equipped Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. It was such a terrible bill I affectionately named it the "Superfluous Stubblefield Stinker."

    While I appreciate all readers who make the effort to express their views to our elected officials, I was especially interested in the revealing response Baxter received from members of the governor's "Constituent Staff."

    Although stopping short of flat-out saying the senator's stinker was going nowhere, even after passing the Senate (those folks clearly enjoy pleasing the appreciative Farm Bureau), it nonetheless spelled out Hutchinson's feelings about the matter. Here's what it said:

    "Thank you for reaching out to Governor Hutchinson's office on this critical issue. It is important that adequate protections remain in place so that we can continue our diligent work to protect the Buffalo National River. Historically, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has been the agency of record for this type of permitting, and they already have the necessary expertise in place to make a determination on a Regulation 5 application.

    "Governor Hutchinson is confident in the current process at ADEQ, and will continue to have reservations with regard to SB550 and the transfer of Regulation 5 permitting authority from the ADEQ to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC). The Governor will continue to monitor this legislation closely."

    That's encouraging, since I feel certain thousands of others across our state who care deeply for protecting the welfare of our country's first national river are closely monitoring right alongside the governor.

  • 31 Mar 2019 4:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    TOM DILLARD: Inflicting harm upon ourselves

    The recent efforts among some legislators to defend large confined hog production facilities near the Buffalo National River remind me that we Arkansans have long had a propensity for shooting ourselves in the feet.

    All too often during the past 200 years our elected public officials have made decisions which have held back our state, decisions which have put short-term gain over the long-term needs of the citizens.

    It all started quite early in our history. Arkansas became a state in 1836 under a constitution which authorized state officials to develop a public school system. However, when the U.S. government set aside every 16th section of land in every township in the state to sell to benefit education, state leaders deferred to local officials in selling the land, overseeing the income, and running the schools. While the lands were sold, the funds were flitted away, and only a handful of communities actually established schools.

    Likewise, the state failed to establish a college despite the federal government again setting aside public land to be sold to benefit a "seminary of learning." The state reacted slowly and without resolve, so Arkansans had to send their children to small private colleges or, as many planters did, to out-of-state institutions.

    The great historian Samuel Eliot Morison, writing in his 1950 majestic history of the United States The Growth of the American Republic, made a startling comparison of the sister states of Michigan and Arkansas: "The first Michigan legislature created a university at Ann Arbor. The first Arkansas legislature was remembered for a fatal brawl, when the Speaker of the House came down from his chair and slew a member with his bowie-knife."

    Morison could have gone on to note that Arkansas did not create a state university until Reconstruction, when newly arrived out-of-state politicians brought many reforms to the state.

    Arkansas historian and educator John Hugh Reynolds has noted that the failure of the early leaders of Arkansas to take advantage of the seminary lands set the state back many years. "How heavily Arkansas lost in her failure to regard the university fund as a sacred trust is beyond estimate."

    State officials brought the same lackadaisical attitude to setting up a banking system for the new state. As with education, the 1836 state constitution authorized the creation of banks. The state set up the Real Estate Bank, which was intended to provide credit to farmers and planters, and the State Bank, to meet the needs of the business community.

    The State Bank was the first to be launched. By the autumn of 1837, some $300,000 in state bonds had been sold to the U.S. War Department. The bank officials loaned money with abandon and with little oversight. The State Bank branch in Arkansas Post loaned $60,000 on its opening day alone.

    The Real Estate Bank was created in 1838 when the state managed to sell $1.5 million in state bonds. U.S. Senator Ambrose H. Sevier of Arkansas browbeat the newly-endowed Smithsonian Institution into buying $500,000 in bonds. The Real Estate Bank was, as historian Michael B. Dougan has written, "a planter-run bank." Land provided the security for loans, and often at inflated prices. Oversight was minimal. Sen. Sevier himself got a $15,000 loan backed by 1,080 acres of land.

    Both banks failed quickly. The Real Estate Bank declared bankruptcy in 1841, and the State Bank closed two years later.

    It was at this point that Arkansas voters compounded the damage by adopting the first amendment to the state constitution, a provision outlawing banking in the state altogether. And, still later, state voters repudiated the state debt, an action which meant that Arkansas was denied much needed capital for decades.

    Without a doubt, the most painful and devastating self-inflicted wound in Arkansas history was the decision in 1861 to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. In addition to the thousands of Arkansans who died during the rebellion, we paid a huge human and monetary price for our short-sighted alignment with the other slave states.

    Arkansans made the situation worse in 1874 when, in the aftermath of Reconstruction, state voters adopted an extremely reactionary state constitution--the same constitution we have today, though it has been amended many times.

    The disfranchisement of poor and minority voters in the 1890s was another case where Arkansans borrowed trouble. Almost seven decades would pass, for example, before the poll tax was repealed in 1964. Eventually, it took the federal government to ensure that black Arkansans could vote.

    I was in elementary school in 1957 when Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus engineered a national emergency by mobilizing the National Guard to prevent integration of Central High School in Little Rock. The state endured years of condemnation over the 1957 crisis, and economic development was hamstrung.

    With this sad backstory, we should not be surprised that some legislators have threatened to turn their backs on the Buffalo National River, our nation's first national river. Indeed, that magnificent free-flowing river came close to being dammed before Congress granted the Buffalo protected status in 1972.

    In addition to preserving 135 miles of the river, the Buffalo has had a profound economic impact on a part of the state which has traditionally been economically depressed. More than 800,000 people visit the river annually, many from out of state.

    Given its popularity and economic impact, many people were surprised when the administration of Gov. Mike Beebe authorized the construction of a large hog farm near Mount Judea in Newton County.

    As Suzie Rogers, author of the entry on the Buffalo National River in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, has written, "Since the installation of the hog farm the Buffalo River has experienced several algal blooms; significant algae growth in the summer of 2018 included toxic blue-green algae." She further noted that "in July 2018, a 14.3 mile segment of the river and Big Creek, a tributary, was listed as impaired . . ."

    We do not yet know if residents of the Natural State are willing to sacrifice one of our most important cultural, recreational, and economic resources. Based on our history, we cannot rule out that possibility.

    Tom Dillard is a historian and retired archivist living near Glen Rose in rural Hot Spring County. Email him at Arktopia.td@gmail.com.

    Editorial on 03/31/2019

    Print Headline: TOM DILLARD: Inflicting harm upon ourselves

  • 31 Mar 2019 8:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    MIKE MASTERSON: Good for GuvAgainst SB550

    I was pleased, as were many across Arkansas, to see our governor step forward the other day to effectively sidetrack that terrible bill (SB550) by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, which would have handed regulatory authority over hog factories by the EPA-qualified Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

    This piece of legislation I've deemed the "Stubblefield Stinker," although approved by the Senate (I've previously listed those voting for it), was firmly backed by a push from the Arkansas Farm Bureau, which has continued to endorse and embrace deeply controversial C&H Hog Farms, wrongly permitted in our precious Buffalo National River watershed in 2012.

    Although that shocking permit was indeed issued by the Department of Environmental Quality (including its former official John Bailey, now with Farm Bureau) without stringent requirements for safety and water testing in a region permeated by fractured karst subsurface, the agency finally did deny a separate permit application for the factory last year.

    In other words, it applied the criteria that should have been demanded back of this grossly misplaced facility back in 2012. Wish I could say "better late than never." But our Buffalo and its tributary Big Creek that flows along and through the C&H spray fields have been classified as impaired from pathogens and/or low dissolved oxygen. And the phosphorus and nitrogen from waste trapped in the subsurface crevasses and caves could continue to flow downhill for decades.

    Yet C&H continues to operate, regularly spraying many thousands of gallons of raw hog waste across 600 acres as lawyers file appeals of the agency's denial. The last thing our state needs is to yank authority away from a department that is qualified to issue permits based on EPA criteria and hand it to a commission that is anything but prepared for such responsibility, even though the Department of Environmental Quality certainly failed to do its job back in 2012. I've got to hope it learned a harsh lesson from that truly bad decision.

  • 27 Mar 2019 9:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BRENDA BLAGG: Constant vigilanceBill to change farm regulation earns oppositionby Brenda Blagg | Today at 1:00 a.m.

    State lawmakers are getting an earful these days on legislation that would change how hog farms are permitted in this state.

    They should be.

    Credit the long-running travails of a controversial hog farm near the treasured Buffalo National River for much of the sensitivity to the issue.

    Litigation over the huge concentrated animal feeding operation there continues to this day.

    The long-fought battle galvanized environmentalists and others caught up in protecting the Buffalo and other water resources.

    In fact, a lot of lessons were hard learned by the public and by the regulators and by a governor or two.

    So groups like the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance were at the ready this year when this new legislation, promoted by the Arkansas Farm Bureau, fell in the legislative hopper. They've weighed in on this new battle, pummeling lawmakers and others with communication. So have other environmental groups, utilities and more.

    At issue is Senate Bill 550 by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, which would change the state agency responsible for permitting farms that have liquid animal manure systems -- such as that controversial hog farm near the Buffalo River.

    Instead of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, SB 550 would shift that responsibility to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

    The bill easily passed the Senate recently, but has encountered more resistance in the House, where a House committee was scheduled to consider the bill on Wednesday.

    Exactly what the bill would and would not do is part of the continuing debate. So is the bill's impact on requirements for notification and issues regarding public disclosure of related records.

    As late as Monday, sponsors were trying to amend the bill to ease concerns, but opposition continues to build.

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday called for sponsors to pull the bill. The governor cited the recent engagement of a federal agency in the debate.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday alerted the state Department of Environmental Quality that this proposed state legislation is under review.

    The concern is that there could be implications for the federal Clean Water Act, which the state is currently delegated to enforce.

    Hutchinson said Monday he doesn't want the EPA taking over any programs that the state currently runs.

    He also cited ongoing efforts to realign state agencies and said, "Right in the middle of a transformation is not the time to be making dramatic rule chances for large-scale animal feeding operations."

    Not for nothing, the governor also noted he had received more than 200 communications opposing the bill.

    Besides the conservation groups, opposition has come from utilities, such as the Beaver Water District and Central Arkansas Water, and former state environmental regulators.

    Meanwhile, Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, the House sponsor of the legislation, offered up another amendment to make provisions of SB 550 "null and void," should the federal regulators disapprove of it.

    That fix won't satisfy clean water concerns or stop opposition to the legislation.

    All of this suggests the bill may be killed, but keep in mind that the people who want it passed have some of the most effective lobbyists working to move the bill through the Legislature.

    A week after the bill was filed, it had not only cleared a Senate committee but was passed by the full Senate on a 25-5 vote.

    Little more than a week later, the bill is slated as a special order of business in the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development.

    Maybe it will get out of committee this week. Maybe not.

    Anyone concerned about this particular legislation should be wary, however. This is precisely the kind of legislation that could linger on a calendar and get passed in the last frantic days of the session.

    This fight won't be over until the Legislature adjourns.

    Commentary on 03/27/2019

    Print Headline: Constant vigilance

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