Save the Illinois River, Inc.
24369 E 757 Rd.
Tahlequah, OK 74464-1949
(918) 284-9440

[Archived] Illegal dam on scenic river still mysterious

| News | January 05, 2013

By Donna Hales

Phoenix Staff Writer

Save the Illinois River Inc. (STIR) is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the prosecution and/or civil penalties for the person or persons responsible for the illegal damming of Barren Fork Creek in Adair County.

The person giving the information may remain anonymous and should contact Ed Fite at the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, 456-3251, or e-mail the information to

The reward offer comes on the heels of a cease-and-desist order from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Darryl Cates, who owns the land where a road was constructed and gravel pushed up from Barren Fork in July to form a dam more than 422 feet long and 8 feet tall in the middle.

Cates said he did not build the dam.

An identical cease-and-desist letter was sent last week to Adair County District 2 Commissioner Sam Chandler, who owns land along the Barren Fork. Chandler said last week that he did not have anything to do with construction of the road or dam, which he calls insignificant.

However, state and federal regulators say the damage is significant and could cause a fish kill soon if the dam is not removed.

Both Corps letters say: "To the extent of your involvement in this matter, you are directed to cease and desist further discharges of material at this location."

The letters notify Cates and Chandler of an investigation of the unauthorized activity by Corps regulators in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal, state and local agencies, including the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the OSRC.

The letters state violation of the Clean Water Act carries a potential civil penalty of up to $25,000 per day.

OSRC Chairman Rick Stubblefield, the Adair County elected representative to the commission, said he plans to ask the OSRC to recommend regulatory agencies not negotiate any in-kind service with any party or parties responsible for building the road and dam without proper permits. Stubblefield wants to see the $25,000 per day fine implemented as a deterrent to others.

"Some people seem to think it's cheaper to use the creek as a gravel mine," he said.

You can reach reporter Donna Hales at 684-2923 or

Originally published August 2, 2005