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Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Benefit from Non-Point-Source Pollution Cleanup

Mon, 24 Mar 2014 16:57:00 CDT

Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Benefit from Non-Point-Source Pollution Cleanup
With today's announcement that Oklahoma ranks number two in the nation in the clean-up of non-point-source water pollution, Ed Fite of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board said it is an accomplishment the state can be rightly proud of.

"When you look at the Clean Water Act, it tells Oklahoma-and the other states, for that matter-that we shall clean up point-source issues. Yet, for Oklahoma to accomplish what we've done over the last five years with reducing phosphorous and nitrogen to the tune that we have, that is a non-point-source issue that we've been dealing with. That's a voluntary issue. It's not one that is mandated that we have to do. It's a state objective that we've adopted. We're doing some really good work in this state through the conservation commission."

Fite Spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays. You can hear their conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.

Oklahoma's efforts to reduce agricultural nutrient runoff has been an ongoing project for decades now. It is a battle Fite has been involved with since tackling the issue of removing chicken litter from the Illinois River basin under Governor Frank Keating. It is projects like this that began to turn Oklahoma's numbers around, making it an example for other states to follow.

"We were advocating moving poultry waste back then and there were a lot of naysayers saying it couldn't be done. But, look, today, we have a market-driven program that, yes, we plugged in some state and federal dollars to make that happen, to transport the waste initially, but now we have a market-driven program that is up and running to the tune that 80-plus percent is being moved out of the Illinois River basin both in Arkansas and Oklahoma."

From those beginnings through other programs in place today, Fite says improvements have been made, but there is plenty more work to be done in the future.

"The water quality is continuing to get better. That's not to say that we will ever get to some point and say, 'Our work is finished.' We have to continue to be vigilant particularly given that the Illinois River basin in northwest Arkansas was forecast to grow out by 2050-a doubling of the population.   So, there will be approximately 1,000,000 people who will live in the Illinois River basin in Oklahoma and Arkansas then and in the 1980s we had less than 200,000. So, it's going to continue to be an issue we'll have to deal with."


Ron Hays talks with Ed Fite from the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission.
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