“Do you know that six poultry houses are being built on the banks of Spring Creek?”
So much has happened since that first phone call to Spring Creek Coalition from Nancy Kimbrell, Oaks Town Clerk, back in April 2018. Emily Oakley of Three Springs Farm, located less than a quarter mile from the new houses, fought with passion and joined with others to defeat those houses. Then the calls came in from all over Northeast Oklahoma. “How did you do it? We are being inundated with poultry houses! Help!”
Two amazing women stepped up to lead the fight and make sure citizens’ voices were heard: Pam Kingfisher and Brandy Whaler.
Starting with a meeting of some 60 people at Peggs Community Center, Emily passed the baton to these two women who then proceeded to hold bi-monthly meetings that ballooned to include hundreds of passionate folks in the Oaks-Kansas areas of Oklahoma directly affected by the poultry house influx. They formed a group called Green Country Guardians (GCG).
2019, the fight continues.
There are no magic bullets, but there are several projects underway to address the problems caused by over 200 mega chicken houses built in the last several years in Northeastern Oklahoma, many in the Spring Creek watershed on northern tributaries that flow into Spring Creek.,
The first is water quantity. Several wells and a spring in the area went dry in 2018 for the first time. Spring Creek is spring-fed. Without this water source, there will be no creek. Is this due to the large amounts of water that poultry houses pump from the underlying Roubidoux aquifer? We cannot say for sure. The USGS started a 5-year study of this aquifer in 2017. We will keep monitoring the situation.
The second is water quality. The biggest threat to our water comes from the massive amounts of poultry litter produced. Poultry litter makes an excellent fertilizer and it is readily available. Ranchers spread it on their fields to grow crops for cattle. Nitrogen is used by the crops. The phosphorous component is over-abundant. It remains in the soil and leaches into the creek. This can cause nutrient-loading, too many nutrients, which can result in algae blooms, depletion of oxygen, and death of fish and other life in the stream.
projects underway - how you can help
As of this writing, May, 2019, projects are being developed by Spring Creek Coalition aimed directly at helping Spring Creek Watershed.
We have hired environmental lawyers to research and take action to make sure the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture properly regulates the enormous amounts of poultry waste generated by these poultry facilities so that it doesn’t pollute any state waters. We need donations to pay for the lawyers. Will you help?
Second, we are partnering with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission to develop a Watershed Assessment Plan that will work with creek stakeholders (farmers, ranchers, landowners, Cherokee Nation, county commissioners and more) to look at the complete watershed and assess problem areas and solutions. A first draft of this plan should start in fall 2019.
You can also follow Green Country Guardians (GCG), on their website and on Facebook. GCG is undertaking legislation and other projects concentrating on all of Northeast Oklahoma and especially on mitigating the damage being done by the influx of chicken houses on the people who now have them in their back yards.