Something is in the water at Calico Rock. According to the Friends of Mill and Piney Creek, the once clear recreational waterway is inundated with sand and muck, due to operations along the banks of Mill Creek on the property of George Bartmes who hopes to implement a sand mining operation.
The FMPC also claims Bartmes has bulldozed two cemeteries on his creek-side property along with vegetation on a stretch of Mill Creek near Boswell in Izard County.
June 19, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued an emergency order to B&H Resources of Shreveport, La., who is partnering with Bartmes in the potential open sand mining operation, to cease and desist construction along the creek bank at the site of the mine.
Both Bartmes and B&H representatives argue that their work on the property has not caused silt to contaminate the creek.
FMPC said in a June 26 press release, "The erosion of soil and sand into Mill Creek will flow into Piney Creek and on to the White River, seriously affecting water quality, fishing and flooding." The group also cites a decrease in property value due to the decreased beauty of the creek.
This conjecture seems to be supported by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality in their emergency order, which said removal of vegetation along the stream has caused massive bank erosion that will result in a significant alteration of habitat, the order said.
Bartmes blames the heavy flooding that occurred in early 2008.
June 24, a group of 30 area citizens accompanied by Ernie Blackley, an Izard County Sheriff Deputy, assembled to reach the site of two cemeteries on Bartmes' land, but after realizing they would be forced to wade through creeks and steep banks to reach the site, organization officials said, only eight people made the trip with the help of a GPS device.
Reaching the location of the Staggs Two Cemetery they discovered it was "overgrown in grass, weeds and wildflowers," FMPC officials said.
Continuing on to the site of the Pearoque Cemetery they found that all the grave markers where gone.
"By state law it is a class C felony to destroy or remove a cemetery or grave marker. The law also states it is unlawful to construct fence to enclose a cemetery unless suitable access by automobile is provided," Sue Chrisco of the Izard County Cemetery Association said.
"There was no road going in from the south side that was even close to being assessable by automobile," she said.
The FMPC contends that Bartmes' stripping of the creek bank of vegetation is also a violation of state law.
Bartmes has applied for a permit to strip-mine the land for an estimated 1,000 tons of sand a day from two pits. The application is still in review.