June 21, 2006
Sierra Club decries failure of the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act
Jacks Fork river excavation was illegal
In September of 2004 almost two years ago - approximately 600 yards of the South Prong of the Jacks Fork River were reamed (river bed was plowed) on either side of the low water bridge. Gravel was mounded up to about 10-12 feet high along the riverbanks of both sides, effectively killing much of the bank side vegetation. Until this action, reportedly done by the Pierce Township Road Board (of Texas County), the banks and gravel bars at this site were stable and vegetated. Two large channels were also cut across an island to divert the main channel of the South Prong to north of the island, where it remains to this day. These new channels are about 25 yards wide with gravel mounded 10-12 high on a 45 degree angle on each bank. The two new channels were dug into the existing main channel so that the water had no choice but to travel around the north end of the island. The flow on the north end was only a tenth of what it is now.
Just downstream from these new cuts is Little Pine Creek, which enters the river from the south. This creek also suffered bulldozing and straightening for about 600 yards upstream. This was all done on private property without the knowledge of the landowner, who has since passed away. The landowner stated that he had not given anyone permission to access the property and in fact had not been aware of it as he had just purchased the property to protect the river.
After being notified by Tom Kruzen, now a member of the Executive Committee of the Ozark (MO) Chapter of the Sierra Club, the area was inspected by representatives of various state and federal agencies and it was determined that multiple violations of the federal Clean Water Act had occurred and Region 7 of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA7) should take the lead in enforcement.
That was 21 months ago. To this date, EPA7 has taken no action to fine or penalize the lawbreakers.
The Jacks Fork River is the very epitome of an Ozark float stream and one that is used extensively by canoeists and kayakers; it is an Ozark National Scenic Riverway, an Outstanding National Resource Water, an Outstanding State Resource water, and as such is to be afforded the highest level of protection. There is little doubt that what was done was illegal. So far, I would characterize the actions of the federal agencies as inept and incompetent. From the local level to the federal level, the Jacks Fork has been treated as just a ditch, stated Tom Kruzen.