Gravel mining on Crooked Creek has ignited again. There are three new applications to mine this creek that has been devastated in areas by previous mining. Are we going to continue the process of turning our stream into gravel mines for less expensive building materials? This is like saying a natural stream with clean water is of less value than cheap sand and gravel. ADEQ is holding Gravel Mining Hearings in Yellville, Thursday, July 27th, 6:00pm, Courthouse, 2nd floor.
Two companies have filed new permit applications to mine 3 sites on Crooked Creek near Yellville. These are all "stream bed" mining applications. My information is second hand, but I have been told that these 3 areas, in about a 2 mile stretch are dry some of the year. This means mining would take place essentially all over the creek bed for a total of 35 acres.
There are 3 kinds of gravel mining. "In-stream", where you mine in the water; "stream bed", where you mine in the stream bed between the water and the stream bank (hard to determine on gravel bars) and "open-cut" where you stay at least 100 feet back from the ordinary high water mark. In-stream mining was stopped in 1999 after a major fight in the state legislature. This unsatisfactory compromise did little to stop damage to the creek as approximately 6 miles of the stream was affected by various levels of intensity of mining. For years, ADEQ had to report to the Pollution Control & Ecology Commission (PC&E) on what they were doing to mitigate the damage. In areas that were extensively mined, they have never been able to reestablish the stream channel. It looks like a war zone. It apparently was like that in the community as well. People talk about the anger and hostility at public meetings.
For the record, we do not, as an organization, oppose open-cut mining and we're certainly for "property rights" as most of the members I know own property on or near the rivers. Speaking for myself, I feel that for the good of everyone in our watershed we should preserve the basic integrity of our streams and water. Our health and economy depend on it.
I oppose stream bed mining because of the inherent damage that occurs for decades as stream banks are eroded when the river tries to rearrange the gravel by dislodging material from upstream to fill the hole. This also causes sedimentation downstream, choking the life out of the organisms at the bottom of the food chain and everything up the chain. This is affecting other people's property and the public's rights to some degree of environmental stability, least all our lives are put at risk now and for generations to come. It's difficult to even appreciate the time frames we are referring too as the most dramatic effects are only seen during very high water events that may happen only once in 25 years. Several studies by ADEQ have confirmed these effects. Should we conduct our affairs as if this is not going to happen? I call this Katrina thinking, where we know this is going to happen, yet continue with business as usual. FEMA did a "scenario"
of a hurricane nicknamed "Pam" that predicted what in fact happened on the coast, but no one took it seriously until it was too late.
Some things have changed. The state added "Crooked Creek" to its "impaired streams" list last year because of high water temperature related to gravel mining. It is doubtful whether the state CAN allow more mines of this type after this designation. This puts the state in the awkward position of "permitting" the very activities that are "impairing" our streams. What's wrong with this picture? Katrina thinkin. Pam Alert!
Public Comments are due August 10th by writing
Mr. James Stephens, Chief
Surface Mining and Reclamation Division
Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality
PO Box 8913
Little Rock, AR 72219-8913
or e-mail: [email protected]