Friday, September 7, 2007

Oklahoma v. Arkansas in the Supreme Court

Oklahoma is just a great place, a beautiful state, to live in. Our topography here ranges from dramatic mountain ranges to the inspirational flat prairies. From desert sand dunes to water wonderlands, from swampland to solid granite hills, and everything in between.

For at least the past 25 years, however, a nagging argument has been the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas over the environmental damage caused by a growing number of chicken farms in Northwest Arkansas, which dispose of their chicken manure in the watershed of the Illinois River, a waterway which flows from Arkansas into northeast Oklahoma, and into lake Tenkiller.
Lake Tenkiller is arguably, Oklahoma's Best Kept Secret. Once, it was a crystal clear, blue lake, built by damming up the Illinois River just northeast of Gore, Oklahoma. This lake supplies water for the surrounding towns from Tahlequah to Sallisaw in Oklahoma.

Likewise, Lake Tenkiller is a sportsman's joy, a playground! From swimming, skiing and windsailing and jetskiing, to all kinds of fishing, from setting trot lines to bank fishing to fly fishing, this lake is just a diamond. The surroundings are magnificent in beauty, breathtaking because of the steep cliffs on many sides of the lake.

Only now, thanks to the many chicken farms in Arkansas, the effluent in the Illinois River is saturated with animal waste products, phosphorus, nitrogen and sodium. This has the effect down stream and inside the lake of making the water clouded and greenish, smelly and dangerous to drink. And curiously, lawmakers in Little Rock, Ark. do not argue this point. A guilty plea?

Here is the crux of the matter: Who should be responsible for the clean-up of downriver contamination? Those who enjoy the rivers and lakes polluted, or those who dump animal waste products, amounts measured in tons, into the waterway or it's runoff?

This has become a matter for the Supreme Court of the US to consider:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Manure generated on large U.S. livestock farms, which can later contaminate soil and water, has lead to a fierce debate over whether farmers and ranchers should be held responsible for cleaning up the mess.

A lawsuit by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson against Arkansas poultry companies claims phosphorus runoff from their chicken litter has polluted streams and rivers in Oklahoma. The lawsuit includes Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. meat company.
"States like Oklahoma need legal tools to help stop and clean up animal-waste contamination, which is destroying significant and irreplaceable public resources," Edmondson told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Thursday.

So-called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are becoming more common in the United States, with an estimated 19,000 in existence, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

I can understand the need of corporate chicken farmers to dispose of the waste products. But their stand on this whole thing is that they must dispose of the manure now, not wait until another industry is begun, which would take and recycle the chicken, hog and/or cattle waste.
At the same time, I can sure understand these people complaining here in Oklahoma, down-stream. Their livelihoods also depend on that river, and especially at Tenkiller. Their source of income is endangered, as is the leisure of millions of visitors, tourists and lake-people there.

So Who Should Pay? What should be done?

Optimally, a business will evolve in northwest Arkansas, which either takes for free, or purchases the animal wastes and litter, and produces a clean, viable product, say a fertilizer or a fuel source of some kind. A fuel source? Yeah, fuel source. Your localmalcontent uses his chicken poopies and litter as both fertilizer and as woodfire starter in the winter. Besides, it is the pine and the cedar chips that I use which are the real fuel.

I do see that the effluence of this animal waste is causing a problem for the Illinois River and therefore Lake Tenkiller, and the tributaries downstream from there, too. The blue-green algae buildup is just astonishing; a real eye opener. And a genuine shame.

And there are some serious, big time lobbying efforts attacking Congress-people and Senators on both sides.
But this will go to the Supreme Court, have no doubt. Then, when the Supreme Court has chimed in on this topic, watch and see their decision also applying to topics of national security,
specifically along the Rio Grande, part of the boundary between Mexico and the United States.


Redstater said...

Tenkiller is my favorite alltime place in Oklahoma. I have been going there since the late 1960' and have jumped off of the famous cliffs by the dam before they closed it off)

It is indeed "God's country".

SAVE TENKILLER, move the chickens to California (San Fran) where they belong!

The Localmalcontent said...

I guess so, being only what, 12 miles south of Tahlequah??

I Love Lake Tenkiller. There's no place like it, huh?
Like you, as I said, it is my most favorite place here in our state.