Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Wednesday (Feb. 20) that Arkansas and Oklahoma officials have agreed to conduct a comprehensive study of phosphorus concentrations in the Illinois River watershed as both states work to improve water quality in the region.
The two states have been at odds for years over water quality conditions in the watershed. Oklahoma’s previous Attorney General sued poultry firms – some in Arkansas – claiming contamination from water run-off on farming operations.
McDaniel, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and agency directors in both states signed a “Second Statement of Joint Principles and Actions,” which outlines how the study will proceed. McDaniel said the document “eliminates the potential for costly litigation over Oklahoma’s regulatory standard for phosphorus concentrations within the watershed.”
Arkansas has maintained that the standard is unattainable.
Both states agreed to be bound by the outcome of the study. It is expected to take three years to complete.
“Arkansas has worked diligently to reduce phosphorus concentrations in the Illinois River watershed over the last decade, and we will continue to do so,” McDaniel said. “The results of this study will guide farmers, businesses and municipalities in northwest Arkansas in their future planning, as both Arkansas and Oklahoma remain committed to improving water quality. I applaud Attorney General Pruitt and officials in Oklahoma for working together with us on this important issue.”
The study, known as a stressor response study, will determine the amount of phosphorus that can be contained within the watershed without negatively impacting water quality. The study will be conducted using EPA-approved testing methods that ensure scientifically reliable data collection and analysis.
A six-member committee will oversee the study and select the vendor to conduct it. The committee will be composed of three members selected by Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and three members selected by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.
Arkansas will work to secure funding for the study, which is expected to cost about $600,000. The funds will be administered by the Arkansas-Oklahoma Arkansas River Compact Commission, which includes representatives from both states.
The Second Statement of Joint Principles and Actions was negotiated by McDaniel and Pruitt, with the support of other state officials who are signatories to the document. In Arkansas, those officials include Teresa Marks, director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, and Randy Young, director of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.
An initial Statement of Joint Principles and Actions was signed by both states in 2003. The second statement is a continuation of that commitment.