Arkansas, Oklahoma AGs agree to watershed plan

Published on: Feb 22, 2013

The attorneys general of Arkansas and Oklahoma have negotiated a plan to conduct a comprehensive, three-year study to assess the phosphorus levels of the Illinois River that flows through northwestern Arkansas and northeastern Oklahoma. 

The plan was announced Feb. 21 by Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and follows a lawsuit that then Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson brought against a number of Arkansas-based poultry companies in 2005 that alleged the companies' contract growers had debilitated the Illinois River Watershed with runoff from litter applied on their farms' fields (Feedstuffs, June 20, 2005).

Edmondson said the companies were responsible for the actions of their growers.

The case eventually was heard in late 2009 and early 2010 by Judge Gregory K. Frizzell in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma (Feedstuffs, Jan. 25, 2010). Frizzell has never ruled on the matter.

The findings from the new study will guide farmers, businesses and municipalities in future planning to improve the water quality in the watershed, the attorneys general said.

The study will determine the amount of phosphorus that the watershed can contain without a negative impact on water quality, according to the announcement. It will be overseen by a six-member committee and will use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved methods that ensure scientifically reliable data collection and analysis.

Officials in both states have agreed to comply with the results.

EPA is conducting its own study to establish permit levels for all discharges into the watershed.