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Opinion: States come together for watershed harmony

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I recently attended the 4-State Watershed Academy in West Siloam Springs, Okla., along with 200 attendees. We heard from an impressive cast of speakers, including the Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 Administrator and the EPA Region 7 Deputy Director. The administrators of the environmental agencies for Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and a representative from Kansas presented, while elected officials such as Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, Arkansas Congressman Womack and Missouri Congressman Billy Long participated. There were more than 15 watershed groups and many state and federal agencies addressing topics such as nutrients, water rights and legislative concerns.

If there was one overarching theme, it was cooperation. Many of these watersheds span multiple states. The Grand Lake watershed includes parts of all four states and two EPA regions. The Upper White River Basin that Ozarks Water Watch represents is in two states and two EPA regions. It is no surprise that everyone sees things a little differently as they look through their own locally shaded sets of glasses. There are many different approaches to keeping our waters clear and clean. Some of the watersheds represented at the conference have dealt with or are currently dealing with litigation regarding water quality issues. Litigation stops the ability of the parties involved to talk with each other, to sit down and work things out. The solutions end up coming from the lawyers and judges, which may not always be the best method.

What excited me about this academy is that everybody in the room had a stake in this process. In my career in the environmental arena, I have never ever heard anyone say they are against clean water. But I have heard myriad ideas on how we should protect and manage this very valuable natural resource. Only by getting all affected parties to join together in a spirit of cooperation can we achieve our goal of protecting our waters. It is my belief that this academy will help with this cooperation. At the end of the conference, Ozarks Water Watch was asked to host the second 4-State Academy next year. With the help of our partner organizations, we hope to make that a reality.

—David Casaletto, Executive Director,Ozarks Water Watch[[In-content Ad]]

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