LEVEE BREAK: The breach shown here led to flooding of a hog farm nearby.

LEVEE BREAK: The breach shown here led to flooding of a hog farm nearby.

Preservation of life and property is paramount with Arkansas River at historic levels in Arkansas, but questions have also begun about what’s been put into the river by flood water.

One example: Runaway barges filled with tons of fertilizer hit a dam and sunk in Oklahoma

Livestock operations exist along the waterway. They serve as useful sources of fertilizer for farming operations in drier times. Many operate under state permits for waste handling. It’s too soon to know how many were affected, but undoubtedly many were.  There have also been overflows from sewage treatment facilities along the river. The various releases at least been diluted by the enormous water flow.

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We learned today, that at least one hog feeding operation was inundated by flood waters in Yell County after a levee failed in the Holla Bend area near Dardanelle. Jerry Masters, executive vice president of the Arkansas Pork Producers, said the operators of the 2,400-sow operation had tried but failed to remove all the hogs Friday before the rising water forced them to leave. He said the holding ponds for hog waste presumably were flooded, but it’s too early to assess.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality said:

ADEQ is aware that Balloun Farm in Yell County was inundated with water after a breach in the levee along Luther Lake. ADEQ is providing support to the Department of Agriculture to address any adverse impacts and to ensure protection of public health and the environment. At this time, it is undetermined how many of the farm’s 2,400 weaning sows were evacuated before the rising water made the farm inaccessible. ADEQ will expect the operator to complete and submit a facility status report once the water has recessed to the point that it is safe to return to the farm. ADEQ also plans to conduct an inspection once flood waters return to levels that allow entry into the farm.

JBS USA, which contracts with the Balloun farm, issued this statement:

“We are saddened by the flooding that occurred in the Dardanelle community and at the farm after the levee broke early Friday morning. Animal health and welfare is a top priority for JBS USA, and we worked diligently to save as many animals as possible. Our team stayed on site moving pigs to a safe area until law enforcement required them to leave to ensure their own safety. We are still assessing the damage and are grateful to all those who have helped, including our team members, neighbors and local farmers, during this difficult time.”

In a somewhat related development, Masters said he understood a hog farm permit sought by the owners of the C and H Hog Farm in Mount Judea (a subject of long controversy because of its location in the Buffalo River watershed) would be withdrawn. The owners had filed for a permit  for a sow farrowing operation in the Hartman Bottoms near the Arkansas River in Franklin County. The application drew concern from some local residents about potential for flooding. Masters said he’d been told the farm property had not flooded last week, though area roads had. The Department of Environmental Quality said it had sent a list of deficiencies for the permit application Coon Tree Farm submitted in late February. It said it was still waiting for an official response from the applicant to address those deficiencies.

Masters remarked to me that climate changes in general, such as warmer temperatures and unusual rain, not just the likelihood of future floods, have left agriculture in “uncharted waters.”