• Oklahoma and Arkansas select Baylor professor to settle long-running dispute

    Dr. Ryan S. King, Baylor University

    The Illinois River, a tributary of the Arkansas River, runs for 145 miles through Arkansas and Oklahoma. For decades, the two states have fought over pollution in the river, with Oklahoma blaming Arkansas for polluting the river with elevated phosphorus from municipal waste water and poultry fertilizers, which leads to an increase in algae growth.

    In 1992, a lawsuit between the states reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that the upstream state (Arkansas) must uphold the water quality rules of the downstream state (Oklahoma). Over the last 20 years, the two sides have worked together to reduce the amount of phosphorus found in the river’s waters, while at the same time failing to reach agreement on what a proper or acceptable level of phosphorus really would be.

    Finally last year, the states agreed to come to a conclusion on an appropriate phosphorus level for the river. That’s where Baylor comes in; the six-person Arkansas-Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Joint Study Committee selected Dr. Ryan King, associate professor of biology in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences, to determine what level of phosphorus results in the undesirable algae growth, which affects some of the fish and insects that inhabit the river.

    “Our study’s findings will help settle the debate over the proper phosphorus level in the river, and once it has been selected, both states have agreed to accept the results of this scientific study without challenge,” says King, who directs the students and faculty in Baylor’s aquatic ecology lab. “I feel honored to be selected for this project as the methods and results will make a significant impact not just for this area, but for the other states that are struggling to develop numerical criteria for phosphorus levels in streams and rivers.”

    Sic ’em, Dr. King!