Save the Illinois River, Inc.
24369 E 757 Rd.
Tahlequah, OK 74464-1949
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House Bill 4118 is a Dirty Water Bill

Save the Illinois River, Inc. | Environment | February 24, 2024 Chicken Barns in northeastern Oklahoma

By Ed BrocksmithSave the Illinois River, inc.

A “dirty water bill” by a northeastern Oklahoma lawmaker passed the House last week and is now headed to the Senate. House Bill 4118, by Rep. David Hardin of Stilwell, saw opposition when some Republicans joined House Democrats in voting against it.
No matter how you read HB 4118, it takes Oklahoma backward in the protection of our streams and lakes from poultry waste that leaves farms by surface flow or by seeping into the groundwater. There is also little question it is an attempt to shelter some of the largest corporations in America from liability for their waste. These are the same companies the U.S. federal court found guilty of polluting the Illinois River watershed. What other industry do you know that has that kind of protection from water pollution?

HB 4118 is the self-serving, misguided, avenging prodigy of the defeated State Question 777, so-called Right to Farm. Voters soundly defeated that measure. HB 4118 makes it impossible for Save The Illinois River to meet its mission to protect the Illinois River, its tributaries, its aquifers, and Lake Tenkiller. STIR urges you to read HB 4118, form an opinion, then call, write, or email your state senators and ask them to vote for clean, safe water, not for HB 4118. You may also want to contact members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which has to approve the bill.

Hardin’s Right to Poultry Farm bill puts in jeopardy almost every public water supply in Green Country, including Tahlequah’s and Stilwell’s. It also threatens Northeastern Oklahoma’s vital tourism and visitor industry, which generates millions of dollars each year. What will be the impact of polluted water on the new whitewater kayak park in Hardin’s own backyard?

The bill changes poultry feeding regulations to say chicken farmers with nutrient management plans are not responsible if their waste gets into our water supplies. This is like saying you are not responsible for driving your car off the road into someone’s home, since you have a driver’s license. The bill argues that Oklahoma Agriculture Department nutrient management plans are strong, but they are not. It is easier to get a plan written and approved than it is to pass a truck driver’s test. The cost is a whopping $10 and the state will pick up part of the cost. The bill assumes there is sufficient inspection and oversight of poultry farms. That is also not the case. Our meager poultry feeding regulations are enforced by only a limited number of inspectors who have a lot of territory to cover.

Here is an idea. If Hardin and our Agriculture Department wish to protect water quality, instead of insulating poultry farming from liability, they would limit poultry litter application to an amount that plants actually can use. As it stands now, by spreading poultry manure, much more phosphorus is applied to pastures than needed just to get the amount of nitrogen farmers want.

Here are some links you may wish to visit:
Senate Agriculture Committee
Ed Brocksmith of Tahlequah is the co-founder of Save the Illinois River Inc., STIR