White River Basin talks to proceed between Missouri and Arkansas

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | 4:23 p.m. CST; updated 4:45 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ST. LOUIS — Arkansas and Missouri will continue to discuss sharing water quality data and collaborating on the development of new pollution standards for lakes within the White River Basin, according to a report released by both states Monday.

The report to Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon outlines the steps the two states have taken since a bi-state water agreement was signed in late 2008.

That agreement pledges cooperation between the two states in an attempt to stave off a legal conflict like the kind that has pitted Arkansas against Oklahoma over water pollution from poultry waste.

"Cooperation is always the goal when it comes to shared waterways, whether it's with Missouri or another state," said Aaron Stadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. "We think we're going to make progress as a result of this bi-state agreement."

Missouri and Arkansas share a vast network of lakes, rivers and streams. Some of those key waterways are in the upper White River Basin, which supports Table Rock, Taneycomo, Bull Shoals and Beaver Lakes, recreational hot spots for both states.

Officials from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources met in Rogers, Ark., last August to revive talks between the states as mandated by the agreement.

According to the released report, some of the issues that were identified at the meeting include: Missouri's development of nutrient criteria for lakes and reservoirs; Missouri's work on new rules for concentrated animal feeding operations; Arkansas' attempt to update its state water plan and its efforts to protect the White River's trout fisheries from low dissolved oxygen levels.

Ryan Mueller, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resource's Water Resources Center, said while many of the talks to date have focused on water quality, water use and water shortages will be addressed.

"It's one of the many issues we're collecting input on right now," he said.

Environmental regulators, elected officials, city managers and environmental groups from both states have been meeting for years to discuss mutual water quality concerns, primarily in the upper White River Basin.

Many of those conversations have focused on Table Rock Lake, which has seen a significant increase in algae blooms caused by excessive nutrients from the discharge of wastewater treatment plants, poultry farms and septic tanks.

Often at odds during past water talks have been Arkansas' powerful poultry industry and Missouri's successful tourism industry built on the lakes in the southern half of the state.

John Moore, director of the Upper White River Basin Foundation, said he believes the bi-state agreement might finally be what drives action on those long-identified problems.

"The question is, "Is this going to be fluff and stuff talk or will substantive matters be addressed?" Moore said. "We are hopeful solutions will come out of this process."

Water officials from both states will meet in Missouri sometime this year, though the exact date and location have yet to be selected.



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