Another telling bit of business at the Arkansas Capitol yesterday.
The state Natural Resources Commission is going to have to give up its fight against an unpermitted earthen dam built near Clinton because it paid a visit to the dam during a meeting that wasn’t properly announced according to Freedom of Information Act rules.
For this, a Republican legislator, Rep. Josh Miller of Heber Sprngs, wants the builder of the unpermitted dam, which many see as a threat to Clinton’s water supply, reimbursed for his attorney fees.
Randy Young, director of the Natural Resources Commission, says forget about it. Anybody who reads me closely knows I’m not president of the Natural Resources fan club, but Young is right here. The Army Corps of Engineers is moving against the unpermitted dam. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is on the case. As yet, the Arkansas legislature doesn’t supersede these federal agencies on water protection oversight. (Though it keeps trying. See Rep. Andy Davis’ nonsense in the 2013 session.)
Not to excuse the FOI violation. But 1) it was highlighted by a Legislative Audit report ginned up by the Republican SWAT team using Audit as a political tool and 2) the failure to notify the public of a dinner meeting of the Commision was in no way material to the facts — a fellow built a 30-foot earthen dam without permission in a floodway. It was seen as a hazard before, during and after the meeting and would have been so whether the public had been aware of the dinner or not. Sadly, had the public been invited (and anyone attended) the concern might have even been greater. Said Young:
“At the end of the day, without regard to the mistake we’ve made, or whatever, he is still in violation of state law as we sit here this afternoon,” Young said. “He still has an unpermitted dam located in the floodway and in violation of the Van Buren County flood plain ordinance, so, no, I don’t sense the need to reimburse him.”