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Scenic Rivers Study Draft Report Released
The draft report for the Oklahoma-Arkansas Scenic Rivers Joint Study is available below...(posted 11/25/16)

Oklahoma-Arkansas Scenic Rivers Joint Phosphorus Study Draft Final Report

Cladophora algae at Carnes Ford, Illinois River

Although the study of phosphorous in Oklahoma Scenic Rivers has been completed, there is no consensus on how to use the volumes of data developed by Dr. Ryan King of Baylor University and his students over the past two years. Lawsuits and continued degradation of Oklahoma’s Illinois River and Tenkiller Lake teeter in the balance.

Many observers believe the Baylor study proves that nuisance algae start to grow at phosphorous levels within a range of 0.027 and 0.047 mg/L (or parts per million). According to an agreement with Arkansas, that "strike zone" validates Oklahoma's phosphorous limit of 0.037 mg/L for Oklahoma Scenic Rivers meaning that no change in the .037 limit is necessary. That may end more than a decade of disagreement and animosity. However, committee members don’t agree on how often and how long (frequency and the duration) phosphorous can be exceeded before nuisance algae grow, violating our water quality rules.

The nuisance algae described in the report includes Cladophora or what locals call "horse snot". Other indicators of "bad" algae measured by Dr. King are chlorophyll and the preponderance of snails and minnows which graze on algae.

Oklahoma committee members maintain that phosphorous should not rise to a level permitting algae to grow in the first place...that our designated scenic rivers should not be "scenic" only x-percent of the time. Arkansas members of the committee appear to seek a lesser standard for our rivers. All committee members agree that water quality rules should be scientifically defensible.

What's at stake is prevention of a possible lawsuit by northwest Arkansas forces with big purses and the politicians supporting them. Northwest Arkansas and Oklahoma cities of Tahlequah and Westville will have to further reduce the amount of phosphorous contained in their treated sewage if the 0.037 mg/L limit is finally proven to be scientifically valid.  We are talking big money on top of what already has been spent. And of course poultry and cattle manure generated in the watershed also has to be better managed.

There must be an agreement on the sticky issues of frequency and duration at which nuisance algae become obvious, where the rocks in the river turn an ugly, slimy, slippery green. We must not let our scenic rivers get to the point where they smell bad, can’t support aquatic life and when the safety of our drinking water is threatened. If that happens, it's too late and it’s too difficult to recover.

The committee meets possibly for the final time, on Friday, Dec. 2 in Tulsa.

To read the final draft report by Baylor University, see http://www.illinoisriver.org/438010.aspx.

Ed Brocksmith, Save the Illinois River, Inc.


Joint Scenic Rivers Study Draft Report Nov., 2016


Oklahoma-Arkansas Scenic Rivers Joint Phosphorus Study
Draft Final Report
17 November 2016
Principal Investigator: Ryan S. King Professor, Department of Biology Baylor University Waco, TX 76798 www.baylor.edu/aquaticlab
Joint Study Committee Members: Brian Haggard; Co-Chair (University of Arkansas) Marty Matlock (University of Arkansas) Ryan Benefield (Arkansas Natural Resources Commission) Derek Smithee; Co-Chair (Oklahoma Water Resources Board) Shellie Chard (Oklahoma Dept. of Environmental Quality) Shanon Philips (Oklahoma Conservation Commission)  


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