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Opinion - Tahlequah Daily Press on STIR
The opinion published April 30, 2017 appeared in the Tahlequah Daily Press newspaper...(posted 4/30/17)

Opinion: Tahlequah Daily Press

STIR continues to fight the good fight

Since the early '80s, Save The Illinois River Inc. has been standing guard over this precious thread of water with every bit as much vigilance as a junkyard dog, albeit with more finesse and eloquence.

It's a good thing, too, because if this group hadn't aimed an intense spotlight in that direction, the river would probably be so polluted by now that even stepping a toe into it would be hazardous.

Longtime Green Country residents remember a time when the swift waters of the Illinois River ran crystal-clear. They also remember being able to see 30 feet down to the bottom while boating on Lake Tenkiller. But nursery effluent and waste from poultry and hog farms and other industries took their toll over the years, and eventually, the waters turned a murky green color. Scum could be seen lapping along the shores of the lake and river. The river ran at a more leisurely pace.

Fortunately, the situation has improved, and that's because of the members of STIR. They've taken on the city of Fayetteville, Ark., which liked to boast of its environmentally sound practices while dumping its waste into Oklahoma waters. STIR didn't shrink from facing off against Oklahoma farmers when a few rogue elements decided to put profit over the safety of our drinking water.

It's always a fine balancing act, because a strong economy is essential, and farms and ranches are part and parcel of that mix in this area of the country. There's always room for compromise, as STIR has proved - ways to maintain our water quality while still growing a healthy economy. Proactive ranchers and farmers know they can use environmentally sound practices that might cost them a little more, but will be better for everyone in the long run.

The initial battle was won many years ago, and both the lake and river have slowly improved, though they've not returned to their original pristine condition. But the war goes on and on, and that's why it's imperative that anyone who cares about the condition of our waterways - that should be everyone, by the way - must continue to fight.

Most recently, STIR members got wind that radioactive waste might be discharged into the Illinois River watershed, making its way there from the White River watershed in Arkansas. The material in question is tritium, a radioactive type of hydrogen, and it's coming from a small nuclear power generation plant being decommissioned by the University of Arkansas.

Fayetteville officials have assured STIR that this isn't the case - or at least, the amount will be negligible. STIR isn't convinced, and members plan to be on hand for a meeting of Fayetteville officials Tuesday. It won't be the first time Okies and Arkies have squared off, and the relationship has been tenuous at times. But that's how it must be to safeguard our future.

You can become part of this venerable organization, or you can donate to it. Simply go to https://www.illinoisriver.org to see how you can help. Your voice could make a real difference.


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