Sierra Club Ozark chapter home

For Immediate Release February 9, 2004

“It appears that the Holden Administration and its Department of Natural Resources are more inclined to protect the interests of polluters, than in preventing pollution,” stated Ken Midkiff, conservation chair of the Sierra Club’s Ozark Chapter.

Midkiff made that statement after the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MODNR) gave the go-ahead to at least 15 separate development projects in the Hinkson Creek watershed in south-central Columbia. There have been several fish kills in the creek, and the stream is on the USEPA’s “Impaired Waterbody” list for failing to support aquatic life. According to federal law, new federal permits are prohibited if the “construction or operation cause or contribute to” the impairment. The City of Columbia is authorized to issue these permits under an agreement with MODNR and USEPA, but the MODNR may review the permits to ascertain if water quality is being protected. If the land disturbance permits are questionable, MODNR has the authority to approve, modify, or reject the permits.

The land disturbance permits - federal permits allowing runoff of various pollutants - had been on hold while MODNR staff inspected the sites. City Manager Ray Beck, Assistant City Manager Bill Watkins, and several City Council members, most notably John John and Bob Hutton, expressed dismay that some of the projects have been held up. Hutton’s “day job” is the Facilities Director at Columbia College – where a project there is still on hold because the application was not complete. John John is a real estate agent and represents a number of developers.

“Hinkson Creek has been on the Impaired Waterbody list since 1998”, continued Midkiff. “It should not have been a surprise to anyone that the State was concerned about the creek. It seems that City staff are much more concerned about letting developers have their way than they are about the quality of water in the creek. Since the cause of the fish kills has yet to be determined, it's just reasonable to suspect that additional development will lead to more kills – and therefore prudent and mandatory to prevent this. But apparently, a few phone calls from the City Manager and influential developers or their mouthpieces to the Holden Administration was enough to let profits – and pollution – continue.”

The projects include a new WalMart Supercenter and an expansion of Sam’s Club. Other small to large projects are proposed, and now permitted, in the watershed. Midkiff added: “It is disturbing that the City of Columbia was just cited by MODNR for violations of the federal Clean Water Act – because one of its own construction projects allowed sediment to choke out Grindstone Creek, a tributary of Hinkson Creek – and this after giving itself a land disturbance permit.”

“If the City can’t do their own projects right, how in the world can anyone expect them to properly issue permits and supervise others.” Midkiff concluded.

Contact: Ken Midkiff 573-881-0553