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Work to begin on watershed project

Federal officials this week plan to commemorate the start of a project to improve an east Arkansas watershed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Departee Creek Watershed Improvement District plan to remove dead trees and debris from the creek, among other things, the service announced in a news release last week.

The two groups will announce the project Tuesday at the creek, a quarter of a mile west of Meadow Lake Road and Departee Creek Lane, southeast of Oil Trough, the release states.

The project is designed to reduce the risk of flooding, which can harm cropland, grazing fields, wildlife habitat and water quality, the release states.

In addition to debris removal, the groups will build a flood-reduction dam and offer conservation agreements.

The project is funded by the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program. The amount of money set aside for the project was unclear.

Pollution, ecology meeting canceled

The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission's meeting this week is canceled for lack of agenda items, the commission announced.

The meeting was originally scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's North Little Rock headquarters.

It's the second meeting canceled this year.

The commission meets 11 times per year -- once each month except for November. The next meeting is scheduled for May 23.

$5M earmarked for conservation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service has about $5 million to give to Arkansas groups to do technical conservation work, the agency announced in a news release last week.

Applicants can be "eligible entities, non-profits, governmental or non-governmental organizations and institutions of higher learning," and the projects would last one to three years, an agency news release states.

The agency's priorities include water quantity, water quality, plant health, soil health and wildlife. The agency prefers projects related to advancing or implementing irrigation techniques, groundwater monitoring and economic analysis of conservation practices, among other things.

Interested parties can find out more information, including how to apply, from the agency's posting at www.grants.gov. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. May 24.

Judge denies bid to end records suit

A judge has denied the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's motion for summary judgment in a public-records lawsuit against the agency.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox denied the motion last week in two sentences without giving much detail as to why.

"Based upon the pleadings and all other matters properly before the court, the court finds that the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment should be and hereby is denied," he wrote.

C&H Hog Farms is suing the department, accusing it of not fulfilling its public records request within the time allotted by the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Department officials had waited three workdays to tell C&H that its request was too broad. Department officials also provided a link to their website where records potentially pertaining to the request could be searched for.

The law states that an agency must procure the records immediately, or within three days if the records are in active use or in storage. The law also states that requests must be "sufficiently specific."

The department's website often does not contain permits or related documents for older facilities, which can instead be accessed at the department's North Little Rock headquarters.

The requested records include communications between the department and several outside agencies and individuals regarding the application for a new operating permit. The request also sought permits, nutrient management plans and communications regarding permit approvals or denials in any location known to or suspected to have karst terrain or under a program addressing water pollution.

C&H asked in October for a judge to order the dissemination of the records and to extend the comment period for the facility's new permit request "for a reasonable time after" receiving the records. The department issued a second permit denial a month later.

The department filed its motion March 5. The agency argued that it was in compliance with the act by providing the link to its website. Further, the agency contended, the farmers, through other legal actions, had argued that other entities had jurisdiction over its permit application.

Metro on 04/22/2019

Print Headline: Work to begin on watershed project Pollution, ecology meeting canceled $5M earmarked for conservation Judge denies bid to end records suit Motion in records lawsuit is denied

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