By Dan Craft
The Morning News
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
FAYETTEVILLE -- A committee of Washington County officials approved a $5,000 allocation Tuesday to a new group seeking resolution to a lawsuit filed against Northwest Arkansas poultry companies by the Oklahoma attorney general.
The Upper Illinois River Watershed Committee will hold a summit later this month on the lawsuit and surrounding issues. The group is forming to provide information and resources to Arkansas poultry farmers and others opposing the lawsuit, said Justice of the Peace H.L. Goodwin, Jr., R-Springdale.
"We have nothing now; but, with this group, we can try to get everybody together and moving in the same direction," Goodwin said. "We've got to do something to fend off this suit."
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed the suit in June, alleging poultry litter from Northwest Arkansas causes high phosphorus levels in Northwest Arkansas streams feeding into the Illinois River. The river flows into Oklahoma, where phosphorus loading is causing algae bloom in several scenic rivers. Oklahoma has required phosphorus -- a byproduct of chicken litter created in poultry farms and used as fertilizer -- levels be reduced.
Arkansas officials and poultry industry representatives have said the Oklahoma level was set unreasonably low, and that other sources of runoff are also contributing to the phosphorus levels.
The Upper Illinois River Watershed Committee is patterned after similar groups studying the White River watershed in Arkansas and Missouri, and after the Scenic Rivers Commission in Oklahoma, Goodwin said.
The group will include members from Washington and Benton counties, the only two Arkansas counties in the Illinois River watershed.
A summit meeting to discuss phosphorus issues and the lawsuit is scheduled for Sept. 28 at the Jones Center for Families in Springdale.