Whenever people discuss the many achievements of
Tahlequah's Ed Fite, you can count on the words "involved" and
"committed" to come up at some point. But it's important to understand
there's a big difference between those two terms. It's like an
eggs-and-ham breakfast …. The chicken was "involved" in it, but the pig
Never has a river had a more committed friend and protector
than the Illinois River has had in Ed Fite, now in his third decade of
service as administrator of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission. His
leadership and environmental stewardship has rippled outward to have a
major impact on protecting water resources throughout the state and
across the region.
a founding member of "Save the Illinois River", he was a key
participant in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Oklahoma versus Arkansas.
This landmark case held that federally approved water quality standards
of one state are enforceable against another state at the state line.
It was Ed's work throughout the 1980s to develop a numeric
water quality standard for phosphorus that now protects Oklahoma
streams from excess nutrients. His research and subsequent public
education about the severe habitat destruction caused by in-stream
gravel mining has led to rules that now prohibit the practice within
the perimeter of Oklahoma scenic rivers. This work also led the
Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to develop special
conditions to protect streams during dredge and fill operations.
He has worked with the U.S. Corps of Engineers to exclude
scenic rivers from nationwide permits that authorize activity without
considering the impacts of individual projects.
Ed's long and dedicated work with municipalities in Arkansas
to limit discharge of nutrients has been cited as instrumental in the
historic settlement between Arkansas and Oklahoma regarding interstate
Just two years ago, he was named to head the Environmental
Protection Commission of the Cherokee Nation, an unpaid, volunteer
position. In July, the Tribal Council enacted sweeping legislation he
drafted that conforms with most major federal environmental statutes
and sets forth penalties for noncompliance.
also volunteers his time and knowledge helping concerned citizens and
groups across the state understand issues related to rivers and water
quality. He teamed up with Ron Suttles of the Oklahoma Department of
Wildlife Conservation to champion an important conservation-oriented
perspective for the first time on Governor Keating's Animal Waste Task
But the Ed Fite most Oklahomans recognize is the "Old Man
River, Ed" - the guy patrolling the Illinois River, picking up trash,
and talking to tourists and kids about it. Part of his success comes
from his tremendous talent for working with other people. He never
expects more from others than he is willing to give of himself, and he
always seems to be crediting every milestone to someone else.
along with honoring our other outstanding award winners, Keep Oklahoma
Beautiful is delighted to shine its spotlight on the man responsible
more than any other person for safer, cleaner and healthier rivers in
our state. For his perseverance, his dedication and his ongoing
examples of unwavering environmental stewardship, the Keep Oklahoma
Beautiful 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award goes to the unsinkable Ed
Posted on 05/01/2004
by Sonny Wilkinson filed under