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

Save the Illinois River's Public Comment on New Phosphorus Criterion

Save the Illinois River, Inc. | Environment | February 12, 2021

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Save the Illinois River, in its public comment on the Oklahoma Water Resources Board's proposed phosphorus criterion for the Illinois River watershed, expressed agreement with the rule but pleaded for greater water quality protection for Lake Tenkiller and the Lower Illinois River.



Save the Illinois River Inc.

24369 E 757 Rd. (918) 284-9440 Tahlequah, OK 74464-1949


 February 12, 2021


Oklahoma Water Resources Board

3800 North Classen Blvd.

Oklahoma City, OK 73118


ATTN: Rebecca Veiga Nascimento

Regarding:  Illinois River Watershed Total Phosphorus Criterion Revision Chapter 45 & 46 Proposed Rules


The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has proposed amendments to Oklahoma’s standard for phosphorus, a pollutant that threatens designated Scenic Rivers, streams, and lakes. Save the Illinois River Inc., believes the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s proposed Oklahoma Scenic Rivers phosphorus criterion should be adopted with the grammatical clarification we present in this public comment. What is commendable is that OWRB staff crafted this revision as well as possible within the constraints of the Oklahoma-Arkansas Joint Agreement.  OWRB staff’s public presentations on the revised criterion were outstanding.


What is not commendable is that the 0.037 mg/L phosphorus standard was first adopted twenty years ago, and it has NEVER been met. Certainly, the river is a little cleaner now than it was 20-years ago because sewage treatment plants have removed much phosphorus from their point-source discharges to the Illinois River and its tributaries.  But much nonpoint source phosphorus and legacy phosphorus continues from the poultry industry, especially after a rain. The U.S. EPA has declined to complete a TMDL for the Illinois River, and so regulators cannot quantify the phosphorus loading between point and nonpoint sources, and thus nonpoint phosphorus continues to defile the river and prevent compliance with the 0.037 standard. In the event this standard is met one day in the future, then you must realize that, by its very design, this revision will pass unaccounted phosphorus to Lake Tenkiller and to the Lower Illinois River which is included in STIR’s mission of protection and preservation for the entire Illinois River watershed.


The Scenic Illinois River is a great treasure, deserving of our highest protections. Lake Tenkiller, which sits in the middle of the Illinois River, deserves no less.  Lake Tenkiller was once known nationwide as a divers' paradise because of its clarity. Now it is nearly opaque. And so, in addition to adopting this revision, the OWRB should do everything possible to encourage states and the non-point source industries to achieve compliance with this standard, starting with a demand to the U.S. EPA to complete the TMDL on the Illinois River. Suggested change in criterion wording of the proposed Oklahoma Scenic Rivers phosphorus criterion.


Chapter 45: Proposed Criterion: The total phosphorus six month rolling average of 0.037 mg/L shall not be exceeded more than once in a one-year period and not more than three times in a five-year period. Using the word “and” as a conjunction could be construed to mean both a one-year exceedance AND a five-year exceedance would be required before Arkansas could be found to be in violation of the new standard. That would be a travesty. We suggest changing this text to read:


… more than once during a one-year period or more than three times during a five-year period.


Thank you for your consideration of our views on this issue,


 Denise Deason-Toyne

President of Save the Illinois River, Inc. STIR


“Clean Water is Northeastern Oklahoma’s Future”

DEADLINE FOR PUBLIC COMMENT ON THE PHOSPHORUS RULE EXTENDED TO FEBRUARY 15. Written comments must be received no later than 5:00 P.M. on February 15, 2021 electronically at or

Where electronic comment submittal is not feasible, written comments should be submitted by mail to the following address: Oklahoma Water Resources Board

ATTN: Rebecca Veiga     

3800 North Classen Blvd.

Oklahoma City, OK 73118




STIR, Advocating Scenic Rivers and Lake Tenkiller Protection Since 1984.

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