By Donna Hales
Phoenix Staff Writer
Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission officials located two illegal dredging and gravel mining operations Monday within a one-mile stretch on Flint Creek, a designated scenic river.
OSRC Chairman Rick Stubblefield got photos from U.S. 412 of a trackhoe dredging gravel from near a water park on the scenic river in southern Delaware County. Ed Fite, OSRC administrator, was called in and found another illegal dredging operation within 1 mile. In that same mile, he found another site where a landowner had placed large rock into Flint Creek and cleared out a site for a more "aesthetic" view of the river from his property. Some violations were observed there, too, Fite said.
The three sites are inside the jurisdiction of the OSRC, Fite said.
Fite said he asked a trackhoe operator for water park owner Ron Fiddler to get the trackhoe out of the creek, but Fiddler later argued the OSRC didn't have jurisdiction to stop the operation.
Fiddler couldn't be reached for comment and didn't return a phone call to his business. Fite said the trackhoe had a large bucket on it and he saw it dig deep into the stream bed and remove gravel to the west side of the stream.
Fite noticed a line of gravel 50 feet long that had been taken from the creek bed on one of the sites. He also noted two large, 10-wheel dump trucks and a couple of front-end loaders taking gravel out of the stream bed area of Flint Creek.
An illegal dam built in early July on the Barren Fork Creek in Adair County is not in OSRC's jurisdiction. First Assistant Attorney General Tom Gruber ordered the OSRC to cease and desist from investigating who built the dam in Adair County on Friday. Fite had obtained affidavits from witnesses as to who had built the Adair County dam and also had taped statements.
The Attorney General's Office said Friday that the office and the DEQ are involved in the investigation but that the Environmental Protection Agency is being brought in as the lead investigating agency in connection with the Adair County dam site.
"If waiting almost 40 days to announce that an investigation will be conducted by Oklahoma's regulatory agencies in the Barren Fork dam and dredging incident has given other landowners the impression that gravel mining and dredging state scenic streams is a lawful and proper thing to do, I hope that our regulatory agencies have learned that a prompt and public response to each incident is absolutely necessary to protect Oklahoma's scenic streams," Stubblefield said Monday.
Fite said he notified regulatory agencies Monday of the Flint Creek violations, including DEQ, Attorney General Drew Edmondson's Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Before he proceeds further, Fite said he's asked the oversight agencies to let him know "what action, if any, we need to be implementing."
You can reach reporter Donna Hales at 684-2923 or email@example.com.