As posted in the Harrison Daily Times
Crooked Creek watershed out of nutrient surplus area
LITTLE ROCK - Farmers and ranchers in north-central Arkansas' Crooked Creek watershed would be able to apply as much fertilizer to their land as they want - though they'd be encouraged to limit the amounts - under a bill agreed to Wednesday by the director of the state Soil and Water Conservation Commission.
Randy Young, commission director, said he agreed to go along with the bill by state Rep. Monty Davenport, D-Yellville, as part of a compromise with legislators who wanted even more areas exempted from provisions of a 2003 law that established nutrient-rich areas and directed his agency to rules to oversee use of fertilizer in them.
Young said legislators from northern Arkansas agreed to stop pushing for the removal of other watersheds in Baxter, Boone, Marion, Searcy and Newton counties if Young agreed not to fight Davenport's bill.
He told the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development that he wouldn't agree to removal of more watersheds.
"Quite the opposite," Young said. "We've been looking at information regarding other areas that might should be (added)" to the law.
High levels of phosphorous - a common ingredient in poultry litter, commercial fertilizer and sewer plant discharges - can deplete oxygen in the water of lakes and streams, encouraging growth of plants that make the water unattractive and reduce its value as wildlife habitat. Phosphorous levels in streams that flow into Oklahoma have become a point of contention between environmental-protection officials in that state and Arkansas.
Davenport told committee members that one reason he sought an exemption for the Crooked Creek watershed was that the stream doesn't flow into either Oklahoma or Missouri. He also said tests had shown the watershed was not impaired.
The committee voted to endorse Davenport's bill, sending it to the floor of the House for a vote.
If the measure is approved and signed into law, landowners in the Crooked Creek watershed would no long be required to restrict applications of fertilizer and animal litter, but would be encouraged to do so by the state's "voluntary incentive" program.
Young told the Daily Times last month that the new requirement must still be met by Boone County farmers in the Sugarloaf Creek, Bear Creek and Long Creek watersheds, which flow into Missouri.
Fishing the Ozarks