LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas and Missouri officials agreed Monday to meet annually to study ways to protect watersheds and aquifers that cross state lines, a pact both states said would help keep water fights out of the courtroom.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe signed the bi-state water agreement with Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt at an event in Springfield, Mo. Beebe said the agreement was a contrast to the state’s relationship with Oklahoma, which has sued Arkansas poultry firms over water quality issues.
“It’s better to work together than end up in court,” Beebe said.
The agreement calls for Missouri and Arkansas agencies dealing with water issues to meet at least annually, starting next year, and to produce a biennial report on the status of the agreement. It also calls on the states to develop and share monitoring and modeling of water quality in their shared watersheds.
Randy Young, director of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, said Missouri officials had been pushing for such an agreement for the past several years. Young said the state has been working with Missouri on the pact for the past few months.
Young said he believed both states would be in a better position to receive federal dollars for water quality issues because of the agreement.
“We want to make sure that we’ve got comparable water quality data that both states are collecting,” Young said.
Blunt said that he hoped the agreement would help the two states avoid conflicts or litigation over water quality issues.
“Our environment and the taxpayers suffer when states are forced to spend time and money resolving disputes instead of dealing with issues directly and finding common ground,” Blunt said. “This agreement is an important tool to help Missouri and Arkansas avoid unnecessary conflicts.”
The agreement was announced as Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is suing several Arkansas poultry firms in federal court, accusing them of polluting the Illinois River watershed. Edmondson filed the federal lawsuit in 2005, accusing the firms of treating Oklahoma’s rivers like open sewers.
A federal judge in September denied Oklahoma’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop 13 Arkansas poultry companies from disposing of bird waste in the watershed.