FNFWR is not opposed to open-cut mining of resources. However, this should always be accomplished with the certain understanding that resource extraction will not put our water and streams at risk. Unfortunately, our current system of management and protection by ADEQ and other agencies is not working well. We are having too many instances where existing laws are inadequate and/or not being adequately enforced
ADEQ and staff are under funded and get mixed messages from state legislators. Some legislators believe our streams should be protected while others contend that "private property rights" dictate that each landowner should be allowed to make a personal decision as to whether they want to destroy the streams that border their property. They ignore the fact that property rights include the responsibility not to harm your neighbor's property or destroy our streams, as clean water is a public right. Ironically, most of the active members of FNFWR and Friends of Mill Creek and Piney Creek are property owners who are appalled that someone could be allowed to destroy our streams.
This has resulted in a system where there is little active monitoring and enforcement of unlawful activities on our streams. The system is basically "complaint driven" which means that unless citizens complain, little will be done to stop the continued destruction of our streams (we recommend filing an anonymous complaint). Click here to go to the complaint form.
There are currently no zoning regulations in Izard County regarding types of industries and where they can be established. State law clearly gives counties the authority over planning and zoning, but local support will be required for any effort to implement a change in this area. The Planning and Development Committee of Izard County is developed a Stormwater and Water Protection Ordinance that is an exciting move in the right direction. We will keep you posted as this develops. In March 2010 the Quorum Court took action to “kill” this ordinance before it was even presented to the public. As environmental damage due to violations by sand mining companies in Izard County continue to occur, it is evident that an ordinance of this type is critical to the protection of the resources that we share. We will keep you posted as this idea is revisited with the new members of the Quorum Court.
The Pollution Control and Ecology Commission (PC&EC) has the authority to promulgate regulations consistent with Arkansas law, but has done little to regulate quarry sand mining, requiring only a Notice of Intent (NOI) and publication before allowing quarry mining to begin. There is no provision for meaningful public input regarding quarry mines not to mention the cumulative and complex risks involved with multiple sites. The regulations are primarily focused on reclamation only and not operations.
Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has general authority to enforce water quality violations and to issue permits. These include certain kinds of discharges into streams, air permits and storm water permits, as well as a mining division. However, the agency lacks sufficient personnel to evaluate, monitor and enforce permit compliance. Enforcement is “complaint driven” relying on citizens to report violations, assuming they see them, but by that time it is too late. Another worrisome trend is the issuance of “general permits” where there is no evaluation of the specific conditions at a site, only a general permit that applies to a wide range of mining activities.
The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) has the authority to regulate water quantity issues, but has rarely used that authority. Basically, they only require reporting of large water withdrawals from wells.