Monday, September 22, 2008
In addition to "Water Issues in Arkansas An Unfinished Story..." , the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation funded "Troubled Water", an AETN original sixty-minute documentary that traveled across the state to learn more about the potential for a water crisis in Arkansas.
I sat next to a lady from this foundation at the LID workshop. They would be a good partner for water quality issue projects and it looks like a possible source of funding.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Once comments are received, the Director will issue a final order. That order can be appealed by B&H, so it's not over yet.... but for today...
Congratulations to Friends of Mill and Piney Creeks and everyone in the community who has helped with this effort.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
This has taken years of research and will be used as a piece for discussion and dialogue about water issues in Arkansas. Board Member Steve Wilson was one of the consultants on the project. Thank you Rockefeller Foundation!
It is interesting to note that the Foundation published a similar piece in 1982 called "Arkansas Water - Why Wait for the Crisis?" The introduction lamented that Arkansas did not have a comprehensive water policy and that it would be difficult to create such a policy because of "special interests." That is still the case 25 years later. Most of the recommendations in that report were not addressed by the legislature, so we have lots of work to do to convince our representatives that we really want something done now. This report is a valuable contribution to that process.
ADEQ Proposes New Stormwater Permits for Construction Informational Meeting September 16, 2008, Mountain Home
ADEQ will hold an informational meeting September 16, 1:00PM, City Hall, 720 S. Hickory, Mountain Home, AR to present information and answer questions on a revised stormwater permit that regulates what people have to do when they are clearing more than an acre of land. Basically, everyone is supposed to have a plan to prevent runoff and use Best Management Practices (BMP). A written plan is required for 5 acres or more.
The new General Permit has some significant and positive changes and we hope these… and other changes… will be included and help us control the destructive runoff we are seeing in our watershed from clearing.
We urge everyone to attend who is interested in stopping runoff and siltation of streams in our watershed, as sediment is the #1 pollutant. Following is information on all the meetings in the State but details can be found at http://www.adeq.state.ar.us/water/branch_permits/general_permits/stormwater/construction/construction.htm
Starting with page 39 of the draft permit, you will find a list of specific changes from the old general permit, for those of you who like the finer details.
There is also a formal “comment period” where citizens or organizations can make written comments on the record or ask for a formal hearing. The current meeting is an informational meeting to learn and get questions answered. That notice will be published in local newspapers, but here is a link to the draft which explains the process. http://www.adeq.state.ar.us/water/branch_permits/general_permits/stormwater/construction/pdfs/ARR150000_public_notice.pdf
We have found out the deadline for submitting comments is September 29th, 2008. Comments can also be made by email to Ms. Jennifer Harmon at email@example.com
We are in the process of reviewing the permit as well and will keep you posted on what we think after the meeting.
MEETINGS ON RENEWAL CONSTRUCTION STORMWATER PERMIT
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) will hold a series of informational meetings around the state during the month of September to explain proposed changes to the renewal general construction permit covered by stormwater regulations administered by the ADEQ.
The following are a few of the revisions that are being proposed for the construction stormwater general permit. There are now only two proposed sizes for construction sites. Small sites, which would be any site disturbing between one and five acres of land, and large sites, which would be any site disturbing more than five acres. Large sites must submit a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) along with the Notice of Intent (NOI) and permit fee. In addition, buffer zone requirements for waterways have been included.
The following are the dates, times and locations of the scheduled meetings around the state:
- September 3, 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., North Little Rock; ADEQ Headquarters, 5301 Northshore Drive.
- September 4, 1:30 p.m., Camden; Municipal Building, 206 Van Buren Street NE.
- September 8, 1:30 p.m., Jonesboro; Allen Park Community Center, 3609 Race Street.
Water Meetings Page Two of Two
- September 9, 2:00 p.m., Fort Smith, Riverpark Events Building (West Events Room), 121 Clayton Expressway.
- September 10, 9:30 a.m., Fayetteville; City Administration Building, Council Chambers - Room 219, 113 West Mountain Street.
- September 10, 1:30 p.m., Springdale; Jones Center for Families, 922 East Emma Ave.
- September 15, 1:30 p.m., Hot Springs; Hot Springs Convention Center, Rooms 104-105, 134 Convention Blvd.
- September 16, 1:00 p.m., Mountain Home; City Hall, 720 S. Hickory.
- September 19, 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., North Little Rock; ADEQ, 5301 Northshore Drive.
Staff members from the Stormwater program at ADEQ will present a brief presentation at each of the meetings and will be available to answer questions from the audience. Additional information on the new permit requirements and informational meetings may be obtained by contacting Jamal Solaimanian in the ADEQ Water Division, telephone, 501-682-0620.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Says land and stream-bank clearing caused extensive silt damage to valuable Mill Creek
ADEQ Director Theresa Marks and staff were the main speakers on August 27th at a public meeting at the Calico Rock Music Hall. Their appearance followed an inspection of the B&H Resources, LLC. proposed open cut sand mine site bordering Mill Creek.
The clearing of vegetation from the bank and the area above the creek caused extensive silting of Mill Creek and downstream into Piney Creek beyond the confluence of Mill with Piney Creek. Although Mrs. Marks acknowledged that the March storms which led to the flooding along the entire White River Basin also caused erosion along many of the tributary creeks, the B&H stripping of all vegetation from the bank and the plateau above significantly affected the magnitude of erosion in this area and was the major contributor to the amount of silting along Mill Creek along the stretch of creek along the site and downstream.
Previous to this meeting, the ADEQ investigative team had performed an extensive technical evaluation of Mill Creek
ADEQ can and has sought financial recovery judgment for damages to the environment caused by violators, but as yet has not made any decisions to pursue restoration damages for restoration of the stream bed. At this time they are pursuing restoration of the bank with B&H Resources.
Besides personnel from the ADEQ Water, Mining and Legal divisions, there were local and state legislators, representatives of Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers (FNFWR) and its’ affiliated group, Friends of the Mill and Piney Creeks (FMPC) which organized this public meeting, and George Bartmess, one of the partners of B&H Resources, LLC and owner of other lands which border Mill Creek.
Steve Drown, ADEQ Chief Deputy Director, said the Mill/Piney Creek watershed includes about 37,000 acres. Drown used soil morphology and vegetation data to indicate susceptibility to stream-bank erosion, and said many areas of Mill Creek are highly susceptible to erosion.
Drown showed slides conveying:
- silt’s complete coverage of gravel riffles downstream from the B&H mine site;
- silt filling pools previously four to five feet deep;
- the bank had been cleared of vegetation for approximately 3/4 of a mile ;
- cuts down the stream-bank to the water, apparently made for equipment access to the creek;
- evidence that a large scoop had pulled sand up the bank from the edge of the creek;
- vegetation had been stripped from the land above stream-bank but some weeds/grasses were beginning to grow back in the mostly sand field;
- deep gully erosion across the cleared area above the bank and into the creek in the proposed mining area;
Teresa Marks in July issued an emergency stop order against B&H. In that order, B&H was required to submit to ADEQ a stream restoration plan, along with additional information required for permit consideration. B&H has not yet submitted the plan, nor has B&H submitted any further information required for evaluation of its application for a permit to conduct the open pit mine.
In response to audience questions, Teresa Marks told the audience ADEQ was pursuing a restoration plan for the bank, but that it may be impossible to actually restore the riffle/pool natural environment without further damaging the stream bed; she said the creek may have to recover naturally over time.
In response to another question, Jim Stephens, Chief of the Mining Division stated that maximum fines for violations are $1000 per day for the first offense, provided an ADEQ representative is present each day to observe the contamination taking place; however, ADEQ said it does not currently have sufficient personnel to visit violating sites daily. Damage awards for the specific destruction to Mill Creek itself may be sought through judicial proceedings.
Teresa Marks said an applicant for a mining permit may not conduct any clearing prior to ADEQ’s official issuance of a permit, which would indicate B&H clearing operations were in violation of state law.
“At this point, the B&H open pit mine application is in limbo, and I doubt if ADEQ will move forward on the application until a restoration plan has been received and approved,” said Jerry Weber, FNFWR President. “In fact, they may never issue a permit,” he added, noting that Marks had in the meeting suggested the geological makeup of the area likely makes this location nonviable as a mining site.
Local Residents Filed Complaints
- Individuals from FMPC and FNFWR had previously filed complaints with ADEQ regarding silting observed on Mill and Piney Creeks in Izard County. Heavy equipment was seen clearing vegetation from the bank and operating in the creek bed and the sand bank was being cut down. Investigation indicated B&H Resources, LLC, the property owner had begun clearing for a commercial sand mining operation prior to having received ADEQ approval for this planned open cut mine.
By the time ADEQ inspectors visited the site in response to these complaints, equipment operators had completely cleared the stream-bank and many acres of land above the creek along a significant stretch of Mill Creek (see July newsletter). Following the report by the ADEQ inspector, Director Marks issued an “Emergency Order” which ordered B&H to stop all operations until the site has been approved for operation and, to prepare a restoration plan for the Mill Creek bank to be reviewed and approved by ADEQ.
- Local residents and recreational users of Mill Creek report that the heavy silting has made sections of the stream non-navigable, that swimming holes are now completely filled with silt, and that fishing has been severely impaired. In fact, since the silting occurred, no one has reported seeing any trout in the area of the proposed mine.
Why did it take ADEQ so long to act?
1. The process itself is time-consuming.
- After receiving a complaint, ADEQ sends an inspector to visit the site and determine if a violation has occurred and the extent of damage. The inspector has 3 days to visit the site, then writes up his/her report and sends it through supervision.
- ADEQ then must write a letter to the property owners stating how they are in violation and what must be done.
- The property owner/business has 10 days to respond, and should they not respond then ADEQ can issue an order to stop operations.
2. Shortage of ADEQ Field Staff
- ADEQ has only 1 open pit non-coal mining inspector, and about 15 water division inspectors.
- The Fayetteville Shale mining has put a tremendous burden on ADEQ
- ADEQ funding is limited and controlled by the legislature;
- State Senator Paul Miller said to place more inspectors in the field and ADEQ funding would be a high priority in the upcoming legislative session. Mr. Miller is on the legislative budget committee. And he indicated that the legislature would also be addressing the fine structure associated with violations, especially with regard to repeat offenders.
Erosion Control Ordinance:
Baxter County’s new Erosion Control ordinance would have allowed the County’s immediate issuance of a stop work order against the B&H site, before significant damage had occurred. Apparently Izard County’s ordinance in association with joining the National Flood Insurance Program also requires that a mining operation to be conducted in the flood plain requires a County permit which was not applied for by B&H.
“I want to acknowledge Tammi Trotter and the Mill Creek Friends crew which organized this meeting for all of their work. This ADEQ action really shows that local citizen groups can make a difference in Arkansas, and will hopefully encourage other citizens to form like groups when they see damages to the environment in their regions” said Jerry Weber.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
This report was received from Tammi Trotter of the Friends of Mill Creek:
The meeting with ADEQ Director Teresa Marks on the mining issue of B&H Resources in Calico Rock was a great success. There were approximately 80 people in attendance to include Sen. Paul Miller, Izard County Judge Rayburn Finley and 3 Izard County J.P.'s. George Bartmess, one of the owners of B&H Resources was also in attendance. Teresa Marks had 7 ADEQ employees with her. Tammi Trotter started the meeting by greeting guests and telling about Friends of Mill and Piney Creeks, Jerry Weber then talked about Friends of North Fork and White Rivers and introduced Teresa Marks. She gave a power point presentation with pictures of the damage to the banks and sediment in the creek. She basically said that ADEQ would not be issuing a permit at this time, since B&H's original application was technically incomplete, and they feel that, if Bartmess actually pursues the mining permit in this same location, the permit would be denied because “there cannot be a sufficient buffer zone to protect the creek”. But they do have an appeals process, which he will most likely pursue.
She also stated that they expect a remediation plan from B&H Resources which will need to be approved by ADEQ. The issue will probably go to litigation since he denies any wrongdoing and he says the damage was caused by the floods. Leon Alexander was also in attendance and talked about the Baxter County ordinance which several members were interested and want to pursue a similar ordinance for Izard County