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The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will ask the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission to approve initiating the rule changes at its May meeting Friday. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the department’s 5301 North Shore Drive headquarters in North Little Rock.

In a two-page memo to commissioners, Caleb Osborne, associate director in charge of the Office of Water Quality, said the changes to pollution prevention regulations are to update definitions, change the name of the program, make typographical changes and eliminate the second permit for owners of disposal wells that are not high volume or commercial disposal.

Fewer than 100 of the 525 permitted wells fit that bill, according to the supporting documents filed with the petition to initiate rule-making. The wells would save $250 per year in permit fees and would be subject only to the permitting program authorized under Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission regulations.

"The proposed rule continues to protect the natural environment because the AOGC permit requirements protect waters of the state by preventing pollution from oil field waste," department officials wrote. The change would get rid of a "duplicative" permitting process, the department said.

According to supporting documents, the changes to administrative procedures would include adding definitions, lengthening the amount of time an entity has to respond to a notice of violation from 20 days to 30 days and allowing the department administrative law judge to issue a warning order.

The watershed management plan, like others developed by the commission, would not be regulatory. It would outline voluntary means of preserving and improving water quality. Often, those measures include streambank restoration, changes to animal waste management, or controlling invasive and destructive species. If accepted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the plans can be used as leverage in applying for conservation grants.

The watershed includes portions of 10 counties and extends from near Mountain Home in Baxter County to near Jacksonport in Jackson County, according to the announcement. The bulk of the watershed is in Stone, Izard and Independence counties, according to ArkansasWater.org, a commission website. The other counties are Baxter, Cleburne, Fulton, Jackson, Marion, Searcy and Sharp.

A fish found in Arkansas’ White River and in several other water bodies in the central-eastern United States should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, an environmental group argued in a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week.

The sturgeon has survived "relatively unchanged" for 200 million years, and the lake sturgeon can grow to be 100 years old, more than 8 feet long and weigh up to 300 pounds, according to the center’s petition. But lake sturgeons have a low reproductive rate and have been overfished, the petition said.

The lake sturgeon may qualify as endangered in the White River in Arkansas, in Lake Superior, in Minnesota, in the Ohio River, in the Missouri River and in the lower Mississippi River, the petition said. It may qualify as threatened in the upper Mississippi River and in Lake Michigan. Populations in other Great Lakes are less in danger.

Little is known about the "historical abundance" of the lake sturgeon in the Arkansas portion of the White River, and it is assumed to have been "essentially" wiped out of Arkansas, according to the petition. The last sighting occurred in 1992, and the group recommended an endangered classification for the species in Arkansas because of its rarity.