http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgPeople prepare to float on the Illinois River near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in this 2011 photo. Ed Brocksmith, a Save the Illinois River volunteer, said he’s concerned about the phosphorus levels in the river. ARCHIVE
People prepare to float on the Illinois River near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in this 2011 photo. Ed Brocksmith, a Save the Illinois River volunteer, said he’s concerned about the phosphorus levels in the river. ARCHIVE

2 states’ river feud clearing up

The Illinois River Watershed flows from Arkansas into Oklahoma and includes a large part of the Cherokee Nation on the Oklahoma side. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
The Illinois River Watershed flows from Arkansas into Oklahoma and includes a large part of the Cherokee Nation on the Oklahoma side. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/05/2018 08:00 AM
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Once an avid camper and canoeist, Ed Brocksmith no longer visits the Illinois River in east Oklahoma.

These days Brocksmith fishes for smallmouth bass and sand bass at Horseshoe Bend, located on the upper portion of Tenkiller Lake where the Illinois River drains into it. Decades ago, the water was so clear he could step 4 or 5 feet into the lake and still see his feet.

“That’s no longer the case,” said Brocksmith, 76, a secretary and treasurer with the volunteer group Save the Illinois River.

Brocksmith is concerned that phosphorus levels in the Illinois River will continue to contribute to the degradation of the lake and eventually threaten its bass population. He and others worry the lake eventually will become hospitable only to the “wrong” type of fish, like catfish.

“We want to catch those fish and not mudcats,” Brocksmith said.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the level of phosphorus in the Illinois River continues to consistently exceed Oklahoma’s state standard of 0.037 milligrams of phosphorus per liter, more than a decade after the state sued northwest Arkansas poultry companies for contributing the element to the river.

Such levels pose a threat to the well-being of the highly popular river, which each year draws about 500,000 visitors – including some 200,000 floaters – who spend an estimated $15 million, according to the Grand River Dam Authority, a branch of Oklahoma’s state government.

There are indications things are getting better.

The level of phosphorus is far lower than it used to be, from as high as an average of 0.423 milligram of phosphorus per liter in Watts, Oklahoma, in 1980 to 0.065 milligrams of phosphorus per liter in the same spot in 2016. Samples taken this fall from other parts of the river show levels ranging from 0.05 milligrams of phosphorus per liter to 0.09, according to Brian Haggard, director of the Arkansas Water Resources Center at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Experts attribute the drop to farmers applying less poultry litter, which is rich in phosphorus, to the ground in northwest Arkansas and industries reducing the amount of phosphorus in their wastewater. The Illinois is one of several rivers across the country that the U.S. Geological Survey identifies with likely improving phosphorus levels.

The lower environmental footprint comes at a time when northwest Arkansas’ population has more than doubled to more than 500,000 people, according to census estimates.

“We’re making progress, but we still have a bit to go,” said Nicole Hardiman, executive director of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, an Arkansas-based nonprofit formed in 2005 that focuses on voluntary means of reducing phosphorus in the river.

The amount of poultry litter applied to ground in the Illinois River’s northwest Arkansas watershed has dropped significantly at a time when the amount of litter being generated has increased, according to Arkansas Natural Resources Commission data analyzed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In the counties that contain portions of the watershed, the amount of poultry litter applied has dropped 30 percent, from 219,195 tons in 200 – the earliest year of data available – to 154,067 tons in 2016.

Several Arkansas counties in the region are subject to stricter regulation because of the dispute with Oklahoma. In those areas, collectively called the Nutrient Surplus Area, the amount of phosphorus that farmers can apply to land is limited and farmers must create nutrient management plans that detail what is applied. Farmers are not subject to those regulations elsewhere in the state, although the integrating poultry companies with which farmers contract may require a nutrient management plan as a part of their agreement.

The amount of applied poultry litter has decreased by 19 percent statewide and in 36 of the 58 counties that have reported nutrient application during at least a portion of that time period. Two counties – Lonoke in east-central Arkansas and Jackson in northeast Arkansas – have reported no application. The amount of applied poultry litter has increased in 20 counties.

Arkansas poultry farmers have been selling more poultry litter to farmers in other states, said Sheri Herron Scott, executive soil scientist for BMPs, a nonprofit that helps coordinate the sales.
Since poultry companies started the nonprofit in 2004, more than 1 million tons of litter have been moved out of the watershed, according to Caroline Ahn, a spokeswoman for Tyson Foods.
“Cooperative efforts between the states of Arkansas and Oklahoma, along with regulatory programs and the efforts of the poultry industry have helped to make substantial improvements,” Ahn said in a written response to an interview request.

The amount of phosphorus from the Springdale wastewater utility also has dropped, said Heath Ward, executive director of Springdale Water Utilities. In fiscal 2001-02, the utility’s treated effluent contained on average 8.4 milligrams of phosphorus per liter. In fiscal 2016-17, it contained 0.24 milligram of phosphorus per liter.

That’s the product of cleaner wastewater from industries and millions of dollars spent on improving the utility’s treatment processes, Ward said.

The treatment is a five-part process that partially removes nutrients such as phosphorus from the wastewater. Called the Bardenpho process, it involves five tanks – anaerobic, anoxic, aerobic, anoxic (again) and aerobic (again) – that mix fluids and ultimately separate out nitrogen.

The Bardenpho process has resulted in a Rogers treatment plant producing one-tenth of the phosphorus produced previously, according to plant manager Todd Beaver. The discharge has less than 0.1 milligram of phosphorus per liter.

Fayetteville’s new Nowlin treatment plant also discharges at about that level.

Ward wants to improve the things the region is doing, but he also noted a project in Fayetteville that restored a few hundred feet of stream bank that kept between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds of phosphorus from finding its way into the Illinois.

He and others favor smaller projects that can make a big impact, such as stream bank restoration and stormwater management.

“That’s how you eat an elephant, too, is one bit at a time,” Ward said. “I’m just hopeful people want to try some new things.”

Ideas abound for how to continue the improvements, such as low-impact development, land conservation, regulatory changes and additional partnerships.

Low-impact development, Hardiman said, would employ ways to prevent dirty stormwater from running directly into storm drains.

Some cities have developed stormwater management plans as a part of Clean Water Act compliance, said Katie Teague, a Washington County extension agent. All will have to adopt them, she said.

Construction permit applicants in Fayetteville are required to manage stormwater in one of six different ways, Teague said. Those include outreach and education, management and prevention of pollution, and control of stormwater runoff.

That has led to pervious pavement at a Whataburger drive-thru on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Stormwater from the drive-thru travels underneath the pavement and into the soil, rather than running off, loaded with fuel and other substances, into a storm drain. Storm drains discharge directly into bodies of water.

Stream bank restoration projects and partnerships to complete them also interest different groups.

When stream banks erode, they drop sediment into the stream. In northwest Arkansas, that sediment often contains phosphorus from years of poultry litter being applied to the ground. So restoring stream banks can prevent the addition of more phosphorus making its way to the river.

A public-private partnership to restore the banks near Savoy, where several Illinois tributaries meet, would make a big difference, Hardiman said.

He also would like to find ways to encourage people to put their land into conservation easements and to finance the purchase of land to conserve, perhaps through a millage.

Oklahoma already has a program for land conservation, capturing more than 500 acres at the cost of $1 million to landowners for extended contracts, said Ed Fite, vice president of scenic rivers operations for the Grand River Dam Authority. A recent $500,000 grant will buy more land soon, he said.

Decisions are pending on other actions that could affect the river.

The lawsuit against poultry farmers hasn’t had a ruling, nearly eight years after the 50-day trial on it ended.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been working with the two states on a total maximum daily load study for several years but has not completed one. It would determine the maximum amount of certain nutrients that can be introduced into a body of water.

The EPA did not make anyone available for an interview for this story.

A joint study committee recommended in December 2016 that the phosphorus limit be reduced further to 0.035 milligram per liter to protect the scenic nature of the river, but Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin have taken no action on the recommendation.

“We are working through the details with Oklahoma to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the independent study are fully implemented,” Hutchinson said in a statement issued to the Democrat-Gazette.

Michael McNutt, a spokesman for Fallin, said the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is working on a total maximum daily load study.

Cole Perryman, a spokesman for the board, said it has no plans to change the standard because it is not bound to do so unless the change is outside the range of 0.027 milligram of phosphorus per liter to 0.047 milligram of phosphorus per liter.

For Fite, approval of that standard is one of the three necessary things for improving the river, along with an approved total maximum daily load study and robust partnerships.

Brocksmith has similar desires, but at least he’s finally seeing clearer waters near Tenkiller Lake after years of work.

“The last few years the river seems to have improved,” he said.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Once an avid camper and canoeist, Ed Brocksmith no longer visits the Illinois River in east Oklahoma.

These days Brocksmith fishes for smallmouth bass and sand bass at Horseshoe Bend, located on the upper portion of Tenkiller Lake where the Illinois River drains into it. Decades ago, the water was so clear he could step 4 or 5 feet into the lake and still see his feet.

“That’s no longer the case,” said Brocksmith, 76, a secretary and treasurer with the volunteer group Save the Illinois River.

Brocksmith is concerned that phosphorus levels in the Illinois River will continue to contribute to the degradation of the lake and eventually threaten its bass population. He and others worry the lake eventually will become hospitable only to the “wrong” type of fish, like catfish.

“We want to catch those fish and not mudcats,” Brocksmith said.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the level of phosphorus in the Illinois River continues to consistently exceed Oklahoma’s state standard of 0.037 milligrams of phosphorus per liter, more than a decade after the state sued northwest Arkansas poultry companies for contributing the element to the river.

Such levels pose a threat to the well-being of the highly popular river, which each year draws about 500,000 visitors – including some 200,000 floaters – who spend an estimated $15 million, according to the Grand River Dam Authority, a branch of Oklahoma’s state government.

There are indications things are getting better.

The level of phosphorus is far lower than it used to be, from as high as an average of 0.423 milligram of phosphorus per liter in Watts, Oklahoma, in 1980 to 0.065 milligrams of phosphorus per liter in the same spot in 2016. Samples taken this fall from other parts of the river show levels ranging from 0.05 milligrams of phosphorus per liter to 0.09, according to Brian Haggard, director of the Arkansas Water Resources Center at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Experts attribute the drop to farmers applying less poultry litter, which is rich in phosphorus, to the ground in northwest Arkansas and industries reducing the amount of phosphorus in their wastewater. The Illinois is one of several rivers across the country that the U.S. Geological Survey identifies with likely improving phosphorus levels.

The lower environmental footprint comes at a time when northwest Arkansas’ population has more than doubled to more than 500,000 people, according to census estimates.

“We’re making progress, but we still have a bit to go,” said Nicole Hardiman, executive director of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, an Arkansas-based nonprofit formed in 2005 that focuses on voluntary means of reducing phosphorus in the river.

The amount of poultry litter applied to ground in the Illinois River’s northwest Arkansas watershed has dropped significantly at a time when the amount of litter being generated has increased, according to Arkansas Natural Resources Commission data analyzed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In the counties that contain portions of the watershed, the amount of poultry litter applied has dropped 30 percent, from 219,195 tons in 200 – the earliest year of data available – to 154,067 tons in 2016.

Several Arkansas counties in the region are subject to stricter regulation because of the dispute with Oklahoma. In those areas, collectively called the Nutrient Surplus Area, the amount of phosphorus that farmers can apply to land is limited and farmers must create nutrient management plans that detail what is applied. Farmers are not subject to those regulations elsewhere in the state, although the integrating poultry companies with which farmers contract may require a nutrient management plan as a part of their agreement.

The amount of applied poultry litter has decreased by 19 percent statewide and in 36 of the 58 counties that have reported nutrient application during at least a portion of that time period. Two counties – Lonoke in east-central Arkansas and Jackson in northeast Arkansas – have reported no application. The amount of applied poultry litter has increased in 20 counties.

Arkansas poultry farmers have been selling more poultry litter to farmers in other states, said Sheri Herron Scott, executive soil scientist for BMPs, a nonprofit that helps coordinate the sales.

Since poultry companies started the nonprofit in 2004, more than 1 million tons of litter have been moved out of the watershed, according to Caroline Ahn, a spokeswoman for Tyson Foods.

“Cooperative efforts between the states of Arkansas and Oklahoma, along with regulatory programs and the efforts of the poultry industry have helped to make substantial improvements,” Ahn said in a written response to an interview request.

The amount of phosphorus from the Springdale wastewater utility also has dropped, said Heath Ward, executive director of Springdale Water Utilities. In fiscal 2001-02, the utility’s treated effluent contained on average 8.4 milligrams of phosphorus per liter. In fiscal 2016-17, it contained 0.24 milligram of phosphorus per liter.

That’s the product of cleaner wastewater from industries and millions of dollars spent on improving the utility’s treatment processes, Ward said.

The treatment is a five-part process that partially removes nutrients such as phosphorus from the wastewater. Called the Bardenpho process, it involves five tanks – anaerobic, anoxic, aerobic, anoxic (again) and aerobic (again) – that mix fluids and ultimately separate out nitrogen.

The Bardenpho process has resulted in a Rogers treatment plant producing one-tenth of the phosphorus produced previously, according to plant manager Todd Beaver. The discharge has less than 0.1 milligram of phosphorus per liter.

Fayetteville’s new Nowlin treatment plant also discharges at about that level.

Ward wants to improve the things the region is doing, but he also noted a project in Fayetteville that restored a few hundred feet of stream bank that kept between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds of phosphorus from finding its way into the Illinois.

He and others favor smaller projects that can make a big impact, such as stream bank restoration and stormwater management.

“That’s how you eat an elephant, too, is one bit at a time,” Ward said. “I’m just hopeful people want to try some new things.”

Ideas abound for how to continue the improvements, such as low-impact development, land conservation, regulatory changes and additional partnerships.

Low-impact development, Hardiman said, would employ ways to prevent dirty stormwater from running directly into storm drains.

Some cities have developed stormwater management plans as a part of Clean Water Act compliance, said Katie Teague, a Washington County extension agent. All will have to adopt them, she said.

Construction permit applicants in Fayetteville are required to manage stormwater in one of six different ways, Teague said. Those include outreach and education, management and prevention of pollution, and control of stormwater runoff.

That has led to pervious pavement at a Whataburger drive-thru on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Stormwater from the drive-thru travels underneath the pavement and into the soil, rather than running off, loaded with fuel and other substances, into a storm drain. Storm drains discharge directly into bodies of water.

Stream bank restoration projects and partnerships to complete them also interest different groups.

When stream banks erode, they drop sediment into the stream. In northwest Arkansas, that sediment often contains phosphorus from years of poultry litter being applied to the ground. So restoring stream banks can prevent the addition of more phosphorus making its way to the river.

A public-private partnership to restore the banks near Savoy, where several Illinois tributaries meet, would make a big difference, Hardiman said.

He also would like to find ways to encourage people to put their land into conservation easements and to finance the purchase of land to conserve, perhaps through a millage.

Oklahoma already has a program for land conservation, capturing more than 500 acres at the cost of $1 million to landowners for extended contracts, said Ed Fite, vice president of scenic rivers operations for the Grand River Dam Authority. A recent $500,000 grant will buy more land soon, he said.

Decisions are pending on other actions that could affect the river.

The lawsuit against poultry farmers hasn’t had a ruling, nearly eight years after the 50-day trial on it ended.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been working with the two states on a total maximum daily load study for several years but has not completed one. It would determine the maximum amount of certain nutrients that can be introduced into a body of water.

The EPA did not make anyone available for an interview for this story.

A joint study committee recommended in December 2016 that the phosphorus limit be reduced further to 0.035 milligram per liter to protect the scenic nature of the river, but Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin have taken no action on the recommendation.

“We are working through the details with Oklahoma to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the independent study are fully implemented,” Hutchinson said in a statement issued to the Democrat-Gazette.

Michael McNutt, a spokesman for Fallin, said the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is working on a total maximum daily load study.

Cole Perryman, a spokesman for the board, said it has no plans to change the standard because it is not bound to do so unless the change is outside the range of 0.027 milligram of phosphorus per liter to 0.047 milligram of phosphorus per liter.

For Fite, approval of that standard is one of the three necessary things for improving the river, along with an approved total maximum daily load study and robust partnerships.

Brocksmith has similar desires, but at least he’s finally seeing clearer waters near Tenkiller Lake after years of work.

“The last few years the river seems to have improved,” he said.

News

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
06/19/2018 08:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH – After waiving his Cherokee Nation rights to employee privacy, John Ross Baker publicly admitted on June 18 that he was the nurse responsible for a lapse in protocol by incorrectly administering medications and potentially exposing patients to blood borne pathogens. “I, John Baker, RN, am deeply sorry that my actions have caused such anxiety to these families. When I understood that I may not have been following proper procedures, I immediately began working with health care professionals to identify any mistakes that may have been made and cooperated in every possible way and then I resigned,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s 34-year-old son said in a written statement. “I love caring for patients and would never knowingly put anyone at risk. My late mother was a nurse and I feel as though I inherited her passion for caring for others. I believe I was called to the nursing profession and I hope to serve patients with the same concern and compassionate care as she did, and I’ve always hoped she would be proud of the man I am. She and my father always taught me to take responsibility for my actions.” According to a CN press release, Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail was informed on April 29 of a protocol lapse involving the administration of medication for surgical patients. Health Services officials said the lapse occured from January to April and involved using the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag, potentially exposing patients to blood borne pathogens. However, Health Services officials said patients were never directly in contact with any needle. “In all instances, medication was administered into an IV bag, or tubing. The likelihood of blood borne pathogens traveling up the lines into an IV bag or IV tubing to cause cross contamination from using the same syringe is extremely remote,” officials said. Health Services officials said all 186 patients had been contacted and that 118 had returned for testing. They also said no patients had shown any signs of exposure. In a June 11 Health Committee meeting, Hail said the CN’s medication diversion prevention program discovered the protocol lapse and reported it to Health Services in late April. Hail also told Tribal Councilors he couldn’t reveal the nurse’s name at that time because of employee privacy rights but did say the nurse was no longer employed with the tribe. Hail said the incident was also not limited to the dental department, confirming there was a “cross” into other departments and areas, including the operating room. When asked by Tribal Councilors if any disciplinary action had been taken against the nurse, Hail declined to comment, citing “employment matters.” He also told legislators that it wasn’t the Health Services’ responsibility to report any potential incidents to revoke a medical license. According to a press releasse, John Baker resigned from Hastings Hospital on May 1 and isn’t employed at the CN or its entities in any capacity. According to a June 8 screenshot of his Facebook account, he was a RN at Hastings Hospital from Sept. 25, 2017, to May 2018 and was hired on May 14 by Traditions Home Care as a registered nurse case manager. However, Traditions Home Care’s human resources department on June 19 told the Cherokee Phoenix that John Baker is not employed with the company and declined to comment further. A CN press release also states the protocol lapse incident was reported to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing. According to a readfrontier.org report, the OBN issued John Baker his registered nurse’s license on June 26, 2017, and that the licence is still active. An OBN official told the Cherokee Phoenix that she could neither confirm nor deny whether the board is conducting an investigation of the protocol lapse and that there were no public records available concerning the issue. Chief Baker also issued a written statement on June 18 regarding the situation. “I am deeply saddened by these events and my hear aches for everyone involved. As a father, it is difficult to witness my son experiencing the pain caused by his actions. His decision to pursue a career in service to others continue to fill me with pride to this day,” Chief Baker said. “John’s honesty, cooperation and acceptance of responsibility is representative of his values and the quality of man that he is. As Chief of this great nation I know that no one is exempt from the rules. Rules and procedures throughout our nation apply to everyone equally. That is most certainly the case here. I want to strongly encourage anyone who sees wrongdoing of any kind throughout our nation to know their voice will be heard and their concerns will be properly addressed. I’m grateful for the health care workers who helped identify this lapse and their continued service to the Cherokee Nation Health Services and the patients they care for.” According to a press release, Chief Baker requested that Health Services Executive Director Dr. Charles Grim lead a four-person panel to “review the events, evaluate best practices and improve medication administration procedures.” It also states the panel is to report its findings in August to Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden because Chief Baker has recused himself to ensure the review’s independence. The protocol lapse came to light after CN citizen John Wagnon, of Grove, spoke publicly about being identified as a potentially exposed patient following a dental procedure in January. Wagnon said Health Services called him on June 4 asking him to come in for blood tests, nearly five months after his procedure. Wagnon said his tests came back negative but that he would need to return in three months for more testing. <strong>Timeline</strong> <strong>Sept. 25, 2017:</strong> John Ross Baker begins a residency at W.W. Hastings Hospital as a registered nurse, according to his Facebook account on June 8. <strong>January:</strong> Health Services officials say Baker begins the lapse in protocol regarding how medication is administered to surgical patients. Officials say 186 patients are potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis C stemming from Baker’s practice of using the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag from January to April. <strong>April:</strong> The Cherokee Nation’s medication diversion prevention program discovers the protocol lapse and reports it to Health Services. <strong>April 29:</strong> Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail is informed of the protocol lapse. <strong>May 1:</strong> Baker resigns from Hastings Hospital. <strong>May 14:</strong> Baker is hired by Traditions Home Care as a registered nurse case manager, according to his Facebook account on June 8. <strong>June 7:</strong> The protocol lapse becomes public after a Tulsa-area television news show airs a story with Cherokee Nation citizen John Wagnon saying Hastings Hospital officials asked him to return for HIV and hepatitis C testing months after his dental surgery. <strong>June 11:</strong> Tribal Councilors of the Health Committee ask Hail questions regarding the protocol lapse. Hail cites employee privacy rules when declining to reveal the name of the nurse. <strong>June 18:</strong> Baker issues a written statement acknowleding he was the registered nurse involved in the protocol lapse and apologizes. His father, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, calls for a panel to to investigate the incident and recuses himself from the matter to ensure the review’s independence. <strong>June 19:</strong>Oklahoma Board of Nursing officials decline to confirm or deny that they are investigating the protocol lapse. Traditions Home Care officials say Baker is not employed with them and decline further comment.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/18/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH –The applications for the Cherokee Nation’s Miss Cherokee, Junior Miss Cherokee and Little Cherokee Ambassadors are now available for download. To download an application, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/Cherokee-Ambassadors" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/Cherokee-Ambassadors</a>. The deadline for all competition applications is July 16. For more information, call Lisa Trice-Turtle at 918-453-5000, ext. 4991.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/16/2018 02:00 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm have deeded a plot of their land over to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic route that Ponca tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/16/2018 10:00 AM
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's Supreme Court this week dismissed an appeal from opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying a lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear their cases. But an attorney battling the project says the "fight is not over." Groups fighting TransCanada Corp.'s pipeline appealed a judge's decision last year upholding regulators' approval for the pipeline to cross the state. But the high court said in a Wednesday ruling that justices didn't "reach the merits of the case" because the lower court didn't have jurisdiction to weigh the appeal of the Public Utilities Commission's decision. Robin Martinez, an attorney for conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action, on Thursday called the high court's decision "disappointing," but said "this fight is not over." Martinez said the organization, one of the appellants, is regrouping and evaluating its options. "That's really disappointing that the court didn't reach the merits, because the risk to South Dakota's land and water resources is clearly there," Martinez said. "It's a shame that that did not get a closer look by the court." TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the pipeline developer is pleased with the court's decision. Keystone XL would cost an estimated $8 billion. The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries. TransCanada announced in April it was meeting with landowners and starting aerial surveillance of the proposed route. The company hopes to begin construction in early 2019. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe and conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action appealed to the South Dakota high court after a judge had affirmed state regulators' approval for the pipeline. The Public Utilities Commission initially authorized TransCanada's project in 2010, but the permit had to be revisited because construction didn't start within the required four years. The panel voted in 2016 to accept TransCanada's guarantee that it would meet all conditions laid out by the commission when it first approved that state's portion of the project. Cunha said the company is working to get needed land easements for the pipeline in Nebraska. But Nebraska landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision to approve a route through the state. Separately in Nebraska, a husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm this week deeded a plot of their land to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic Ponca route that tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877. "What the impact will be, I don't know," Tanderup said. "But now, they'll have a voice in this issue. They will be a player at the table." It's not clear whether deeding the land to the tribe would hinder the company or create a new legal argument for the Ponca, given their status as a federally recognized Indian tribe. Brad Jolly, an attorney for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, said he was focusing more on overturning state regulators' approval of the pipeline in a case pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court. "I haven't gotten to all the what-ifs yet," Jolly said. The Keystone pipeline also faces a potential obstacle in a federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump's decision to grant a presidential permit for the project.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/15/2018 04:00 PM
CALHOUN, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association is set for 10:30 a.m. on July 14 at the Gordon County Historical Society at 345 S. Wall St. This is part three of the chapter’s remembrance of the 180th anniversary of the Cherokee removal. “The Journey To Indian Country” will be presented by past chapter president W. Jeff Bishop. The meeting is free and open to the public. The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history. For more information about the May GCTOTA meeting, email Walter Knapp at <a href="mailto: walt@wjkwrites.com">walt@wjkwrites.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/15/2018 08:15 AM
OOLOGAH – The Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In starts at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 11 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch. Planes will begin landing at 7:30 a.m. on a 2,000-foot grass airstrip next to the ranch located at 9501 E. 380 Road. Admission is free, and there is ample parking. The annual event celebrates aviation and marks the anniversary of Will and Wiley’s Aug. 15, 1935, deaths in Alaska due to a plane crash. A moment of remembrance will be observed at 10 a.m. honoring those who have died in small plane crashes and lapel pins will be presented especially designed in tribute to crash victims Vintage aircraft, World War I fighters, experimental planes, bi-planes, helicopters and fly-overs are all part of the event as well as food and concessions, antique and classic cars, a Cherokee storyteller and kids’ activities. Special tribute will be paid to Dr. Bill Kinsinger, who departed Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City in January on an animal rescue mission for Pilots N Paws to Georgetown, Texas, but never reached his destination. After being spotted on radar headed into the Gulf of Mexico, it was reported by searchers, “the pilot was slouched over and appeared unconscious.” Members of Dr. Kinsinger’s family will be on hand to receive a lapel pin. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.willrogers.com" target="_blank">www.willrogers.com</a> or call 918-341-0719.