The news of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality granting a hog farm a permit to operate within the watershed of the Buffalo National River has sparked a large out-pouring of criticism toward the application process. Many people, including Buffalo River Superintendent Kevin Cheri, feel the process of the C&H Hog Farm permit’s application and approval was pushed through without proper public stakeholder notification and comment period.
Superintendent Cheri said that this situation will compare to the Mill Creek Sewage problem that has plagued the Middle Buffalo River for years. He said, like the Mill Creek sewage run-off, it will be inevitable that pollution from the proposed hog farm will result in public health warnings for parts of the Buffalo River.
A new National Park Service report for 2011 shows that the 1,169,802 visitors to Buffalo National River spent $38,232,000 in communities surrounding the park. This spending supported 528 jobs in the local area.
A public health warning for one part of the river affects tourism on the entire river. Superintendent Cheri said people decide to vacation and spend their money elsewhere when public health warnings are issued for the Buffalo River and, "when people hear about a warning on the Buffalo River, they decide to avoid the entire river altogether. The money generated by the hog farm and the few jobs it would create would not come close to the potential loss of jobs and tourism money that is vital to the rural communities surrounding the Buffalo River."
Thanks to social media and a local grassroots movement of supporters of the Buffalo National River, a large crowd is expected to attend the Newton County Quorum Court meeting scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Newton County Courthouse in Jasper, Arkansas.