This article is in today's Harrison newspaper.
Proposed legislation expected today, tomorrow
LITTLE ROCK - State Soil and Water Director Randy Young told his commission Wednesday that he was cooperating with Harrison-area legislators who would be introducing legislation to take farms in the Crooked Creek watershed out of controversial state phosphorus regulations.
That will remove farmers in Searcy County and parts of Boone, Newton and Marion Counties from requirements to develop a fertilization plan and use a certified fertilizer applicator to keep phosphorus runoff into streams to a minimum.
The Sugarloaf Creek, Bear Creek and Long Creek watersheds will be among the streams that still come under the proposed regulations in Boone County.
Young said Thursday morning that he would be meeting with state Reps. James Norton of Harrison and Monty Davenport of Yellville today or tomorrow to help them draft a bill exempting Crooked Creek farms from the regulations.
He had told the commission Wednesday that a University of Arkansas compilation of soil tests showed Boone County farms contained an average of 475 pounds of phosphorus per acre, which is significantly above the 60 to 100 pounds needed for farming. Marion had a 140 pound average, he said.
Asked why, given those figures, he was cooperating with the proposal to remove farms from the regulation, he said he had promised at a December legislative committee meeting that he would cooperate.
He also noted that Crooked Creek did not flow into another state.
Special "excess nutrient" areas were designated for regulation by the legislature two years ago under the threat that if Arkansas didn't act, Oklahoma would require what Young says are impossible phosphorus limits, choking growth in Washington and Benton Counties.
There have been similar rumblings from Missouri and Arkansas streams flowing into Missouri were also designated for regulation.
But the law also included the Crooked Creek watershed, which flows into the White River at Cotter and thence through Arkansas to the Mississippi River.
Representative Norton said Thursday that he had never understood why Crooked Creek was included. "I tried to keep it out two years ago," he said. "It may not have received the attention it should have," during the push to satisfy Oklahoma.
Norton said he, Davenport and state Sens. Randy Laverty of Jasper and Shawn Womack of Mountain Home would sponsor the bill and "hopefully it will go through relatively easy and fast."
The December meeting of the legislature's agriculture committee had resulted in Soil and Water's proposed regulations to implement the law being kicked back to the legislative rules committee instead of on to the Legislative Council whose approval would allow them to go into effect.
Representative Norton said Thursday that some two dozen unhappy Harrison-area farmers attended the December meeting, which drew no news coverage but slowed down motion to finalize the regulations.
At Wednesday's meeting, the Soil and Water Commission gave itself the power to act on the regulations for a 120 day emergency period until the interim legislative rules committee goes back into session after the legislature goes home. The emergency period can be extended for another 120 days but "not indefinitely," the commission was told.
The commission was urged by representatives of the state Department of Environmental Quality and the National Resource Conservation Service to use the emergency period to get cracking on training the local conservation district workers who will prepare the fertilization plans. If the legislative blockage ends, the regulations are to go into effect next Jan. 1. Federal farm and pollution agencies are expecting that, the commission was told.
??Ozarks Newsstand 2005
Fishing the Ozarks