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

Conservation Groups Object to Illinois River Agreement with Arkansas

STIR Inc. | Environment | November 14, 2018


November 14, 2018

Contact:              EdBrocksmith, STIR, 918-284-9440

                            MarkDerichsweiler, Sierra Club, 405-429-9635

                            RonSuttles, OK Conservation Coalition, 405-503-8666


Conservation GroupsDisappointed With Illinois River Agreement


Oklahoma conservation organizations have expressed their disappointment with a new memorandum of agreement directed at water quality problems in the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller. In a letter to Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague, the groups stated that their concerns had not been addressed and warned that the MOA “clearly falls short of the pollution controls needed to comply with applicable water quality standards in Oklahoma.”


“We are extremely disappointed that this MOA proposes absolutely no provisions that will result in substantial water quality improvements any time soon,” said Ed Brocksmith of Save The Illinois River. “It’s been nearly two years since an expert panel determined that Oklahoma’s water quality standard for phosphorus is scientifically valid. That standard has been on the books for 15 years now and we still have no plan on how to meet it.”


Mark Derichsweiler, Vice-Chair of Sierra Club’s Oklahoma Chapter, said the agreement is too focused on more study. “Incredibly, rather than propose actual measures to clean up the river and lake, the MOA would create new bureaucracies and crank up even more studies,” he said. “While establishing two new workgroups and a steering committee, the MOA calls for another watershed plan. Both Oklahoma and Arkansas have had Illinois River watershed plans in place for many years. Obviously, they have not led to compliance with the standards. Wasting several more years on another plan will not lead to compliance either.”


The best solution would be to finish the comprehensive study that EPA began, according to Ron Suttles, Board Chair of Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma. “Unfortunately, the MOA makes no mention of completing the phosphorus TMDLs that EPA started and then dropped,” Suttles said. 

“TheTMDL framework is the solution to problems like this that is laid out in the Clean Water Act. It has been successfully applied in thousands of cases all across the country. People in the area, as well as wastewater dischargers, want to know what’s going to be required and completing the TMDLs would provide those answers in a relatively short time.”


Denise Deason-Toyne, President of STIR, called the MOA provisions for wastewater dischargers unacceptable. “The MOA contains no requirements for actual stricter permit limits on phosphorus. It even attempts to lock in the current inadequate limits for existing discharges, a step we believe would violate the Clean Water Act,” she said. Provisions related to new discharges also fall short according to Deason-Toyne. “The MOA only says that new permit applications will be evaluated to see if they might be capable of meeting some new limits,” she said. “That evaluation level for new discharges is 0.2 mg/L. That’s double the limit applied to the last new discharge in Arkansas.” The NACA facility near Centerton was given a limit of 0.1 mg/L nine years ago, she said. “We can do better than that.”