Scenic Rivers Joint Study Committee

The Scenic Rivers Joint Study Committee was made up of six members divided equally between Oklahoma and Arkansas. Governor Mary Fallin appointed the Oklahoma members in 2013. The goal of the Committee was to implement a joint study to determine the phosphorus level at which a significant shift in algae (both type and biomass) occurs resulting in undesirable aesthetic or water quality conditions. Working toward this goal, the Committee was tasked with three objectives:

  1. Review the phosphorus water quality standard for scenic rivers. 
  2. Design a study and select and advise independent researchers to determine the critical phosphorous concentrations that lead to excessive algal growth in scenic rivers.
  3. Use the results of the study to further investigate whether the current phosphorous water quality standard is an appropriate number to protect scenic rivers from excessive algae growth.

The Issue

At the time the committee was convened, Oklahoma’s phosphorous standard for its six scenic rivers was 0.037 mg/L, but levels were often found to be in the range of 0.01 – 0.15 mg/L at the Illinois River near the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. Concentrations are even greater during storm events. Phosphorous concentrations that cause a noticeable increase in algae growth are critical to all rivers, but by law scenic rivers have extra protection to preserve their high quality and unique characteristics. Sources of phosphorous in freshwater include runoff from urban development, agricultural operations, soil and streambank erosion, and wastewater and industrial discharges.

Committee Members
  • Derek Smithee, Oklahoma Water Resources Board (Co-Chair)
  • Shanon Phillips, Oklahoma Conservation Commission
  • Shellie Chard-McClary, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality
  • Dr. Brian Haggard, University of Arkansas (Co-Chair) 
  • Dr. Marty Matlock, University of Arkansas
  • Dr. Thad Scott, University of Arkansas

Reference information used by the committee, and committee meeting minutes, can be found at the links above. The Committee issued its final report in December 2016. 

If you have questions about the Scenic Rivers Joint Study Committee, contact Committee Co-Chairman Derek Smittee at 405-530-8800 or Brian Haggard at 479-575-2879.

Scenic Rivers Meetings

Scenic Rivers Reference Information