Defenders of the Buffalo River are up in arms over a permit that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has issued to C&H Hog Farm, under construction on a tributary of Big Creek, which feeds into the Buffalo. They have begun a petition drive asking Gov. Beebe to act to protect the Buffalo.
The Newton County Quorum Court is expected to hear from river advocates at its meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Jasper Court House.
The Ozark Society has posted information about the hog farm and what its permit allows. It notes that the only notification of the application was on the ADEQ website. Also,
In heavy rain events, pits and ponds may overflow into Dry Creek which flows into Big Creek,
a tributary of the Buffalo National River. It is approximately 6 miles from the confluence of Big Creek and Dry Creek to the Buffalo. Hog waste applied on fields can run off into streams even with the precaution of buffer zones. An aquatic biologist has explained that when “fine organics”from decomposing hog waste (includes feces and urine) run off or slowly leach into soil and water, it becomes trapped in gravel bars where decomposition continues and produces ammonia and methane products that are toxic to mussels and fish.
At risk are two mussel species and two fish being studied for classification as “endangered” near the confluence of Big Creek and the Buffalo River. It is possible that they also exist in Big Creek. Excessive nutrients in the water decrease clarity of the water, encourage growth of algae such as spirogyra, (the long green strands that we already see in the Buffalo during the summer) and lower dissolved oxygen.
Because public notice was so limited, not even Kevin Cheri, superintendent of the Buffalo National River, knew about the application. He learned about the hot farm from area activists. Oddly, a letter from the permits branch to the Arkansas Canoe Club defended its public notice process:
A copy of the permit, fact sheet, and public notice were sent via email to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the EPA Region 6, and the Arkansas Department of Health for review. None of those organizations objected to the issuance of this permit.
But not the Buffalo River National Park?
Here’s more on the issue from KHOZ radio’s website.