State seeks comment on quality of streams, rivers


Mar 11, 2001
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July 31, 2002

Charlie Farmer, Springfield News Leader

State seeks comment on quality of streams, rivers

There is nothing better than clean, gurgling Ozark streams and rivers for fishing, canoeing, hunting, camping and enjoying the tranquility of flowing waters.

The Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks display some of the best in the nation. Unfortunately, almost every stream in the region has been tarnished by pollution in some way or another. There are federal and state agencies that try to curb the blight. So do citizen conservationists. It’s an ongoing fight.

There are those who knowingly plunder and those who try to make better. How in the world would anybody desecrate a stream brimming with smallmouth bass, Goggle-eye and catfish?

Chris Vitello, fisheries regional supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation, knows a lot about streams and rivers as well as a key referendum dealing with water quality.

He read the proposed final Missouri Section 303 (d) list from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, then placed the list on public notice for the purpose of soliciting comments on two pieces of information added to the list on July 15.

The notice contained a typographical error in the key to the proposed list. Because of this change, the deadline for comments is extended to Aug. 2.

While Vitello knows all about the 303 (d) list in reference to a section of the federal Clean Water Act, most of the public may be unclear about it. The statute requires states to identify bodies of water that cannot meet water quality standards after applying the existing regulations.

The 303 (d) list is sometimes referred to as the Impaired Waters List. It is actually a subset of all the impaired waters in the state. For waters on this list, a plan to fix the problem must be developed.

DNR has lists of fish trauma. The first one on the list is physical damage to fish due to high water velocities or man-made structures. Excessive amounts of air dissolved in water can occur when water drops from a dam or waterfall. This extra air in the water can cause gas bubble disease in fish.

Habitat loss is another, including changes in the physical nature of the steam channel such as depth, width, size of bottom material, stability of banks and habitat such as logs, gravel and boulders. It also includes changes to the amount of flow and flow velocity and straightening of channels.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two nutrients most often responsible for excessive algae growth in steams and lakes. Lead and zinc at high levels can be toxic to aquatic life. These problems often occur together due to runoff from mine tailings piles. High water temperatures or rapid changes in water temperature can be harmful to many forms of aquatic life, especially fish.

Other sources toxic to fish are poor agriculture practices (cows wallowing in streams being one of the worst), abandoned mine lands, mobile home parks, off-road vehicles, point sources (such as a discharge pipe from a sewage treatment plant) and wastewater treatment plants.

If there are two rivers that Springfieldians and Ozarkians covet along with other towns, they are the James and Finley. Both rivers have had their up-and-down bouts with pollution. And the war is not over.

Stephen Jones, professor of biology and director of environmental studies at Drury University, did a fine pilot study on the Finley River. It was based on field surveys, water quality, and the biological integrity of the river’s fish communities.

The Finley River is one of the finest smallmouth and goggle-eye stream in the Ozarks despite many abuses from agriculture, wastewater treatment facilities, gravel mining, urban expansion and impaired riparian corridors.

Apparently, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, with the final 303 (d), will not have any plans for helping the Finley River and the river’s admirers. There also have been water pollution control programs on the James River.

Sam Faith, a Stream Team biologist in the Stream Unit at Runge Conservation Nature Center, has fond recollections of growing up in Missouri in the ’60s and ’70s.

“I fell in love with the still-flowing Ozark streams,” he said. “Today, I’m thrilled to be able to act on their behalf, both as a Stream Team volunteer and as a MDC staffer in the stream unit. There will be battles about streams. Some won! Others lost!

“Still, the streams and rivers survive with those who can’t live without moving water.”

In the end, rivers flow mightily through our veins.

You can send your comments to DNR, Water Pollution Control Program: Planning Section, P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102-O176, or fax them to (573) 526-5797.

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