EDITOR'S NOTE: ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON, AUG. 12, TOM GRUBER OF THE OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE ASKED OSRC ADMINISTRATOR ED FITE TO STAND DOWN ON THE INVESTIGATION OF AN ILLEGAL DAM ON THE BARREN FORK CREEK IN ADAIR COUNTY. APPARENTLY THE OSRC STILL MIGHT DISCUSS THE DAMS AT ITS MEETING TUESDAY IN TAHLEQUAH. HOWEVER, THE A.G.'S OFFICE APPARENTLY WAS ADAMANT THAT THE COMMISSION HAS NO JURISDICTION IN ADAIR COUNTY. THIS INCIDENT IS INDEED TURNING INTO A GREAT FIASCO. A SOURCE IN THE A.G.'S OFFICE TELLS STIR THERE IS AN "ACTIVE" INVESTIGATION ON THEIR PART. LET'S HOPE SO.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
tahlequah—The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission will discuss two illegal dams on Barren Fork Creek when it meets Tuesday, Aug. 16 in Tahlequah.
OSRC Chairman Rick stubblefield will ask state and federal agencies to defend Oklahoma scenic streams from further illegal dredging, damming, and gravel mining. The resolution asks for “maximum fines against responsible parties.”
Save the Illinois River (STIR), a state conservation organization chartered to protect Oklahoma Scenic Rivers, today urged agencies investigating the dams to heed the OSRC’s urgent call and to act swiftly and decisively.
“The Barren Fork fiasco is an outrageous violation of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Act. It has robbed state citizens of their clean water rights,” said STIR’s Ed Brocksmith of Tahlequah. “Equally outrageous are published comments that the Barren Fork has ‘too much gravel in it anyway’ and that the matter is 'insignificant'.
This sort of attitude shows a complete disrespect for and a lack of understanding about protection of Oklahoma’s most outstanding water resources” he said.
The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has issued violation notices to two Adair County men who own land adjacent to the over 400-foot-long gravel dam. Both men have denied any knowledge of the dam and STIR has issued a reward for information. Fines for damming the scenic stream could be very severe.
A second nonpermitted dam was discovered in Cherokee County. A private recreation club has admitted responsibility for the dam. The dam apparently went beyond the scope of “verbal” permission from the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps has since discontinued giving verbal permits.
"STIR believes its time for the Oklahoma Legislature to put the Barren Fork back under the control of the OSRC," Brocksmith said. "It was a mistake to remove that part of the scenic river in Adair County. The irresponsible activity by some land owners shows the entire stream needs the state's protection."
STIR said the cooperation of investigating state and federal agencies has been gratifying, especially the response by the ODEQ.
“ODEQ recognized these incidents as significant violations of our scenic river laws and has provided full cooperation with other agencies resulting in putting suspected violators on notice.”