ACC Conservation Issues: Where We Are and What Needs To Be Done
Where we are: Access issues are still of great concern. Too many of our favorite places do not have public access. Presently we are threatened with loss of access to three important creeks.
We have currently lost access to the section of Cadron Creek above highway 65. The central chapter has attempted to find alternate access to no avail.
The South Fork of the Little Red access at Low Gap Road has changed ownership. Chester Robinson is building a relationship with the new owner in hopes of maintaining this access for the time being.
The Big Piney has been accessible to us for many years due to the good graces of the Helton family. The family situation is now changing and this access may now be threatened. The Piney Creeks Chapter is looking into alternatives.
On a more positive note; we have sent in comments to the US forest service in support of a new public access at Turner Bend on the Mulberry on the north side of the river. In addition new accesses may be opening up on the Cossatot due to our work with Arkansas State Parks.
What needs to be done: It has become all too apparent that we cannot rely on private agreements with landowners to provide us with permanent access. This kind of agreement can dissolve at any time and requires no explanation. We will need to work with landowners and government agencies together to establish permanent public accesses which cannot be removed without public comment.
Accesses are vital to the club interest and must protected. Each club chapter should be aware of the access issues in their area. To that end, each chapter should create an access committee to search county records, work with landowners and government agencies to provide public access where it is needed. This work cannot be done by one volunteer.
Where we are: One of the important functions of our club has been to insure that our members have good reliable information available to them for planning trips. River level gauges are vital for this function. The ACC; working with government agencies such as ADEQ, ANRC, USGS, the Corp of Engineers and others has helped to provide many of the gauges we take for granted today. However, gauges are still needed on many other stream reaches in order to provide the most accurate, up to the minute data.
In the last several years very few new gauges have been installed but that is changing. Because of concerns about the impacts of natural gas drilling on our streams, state agencies are installing new gauges across the region of the Fayetteville Shale to monitor these streams. The area of concern encompasses the central one third of the state; most of the Boston Mountain region.
I have contacted the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and they are willing to work with us on the placement of new gauges. I specifically asked about Salado Creek and was told that if it is within the Fayetteville Shale, we stand a good chance of getting one there.
What needs to be done: We need to obtain a list of all new gauges that have already been installed. These may be valuable gauges for us. We know that two have been installed on the South Fork of the Little Red and one on East Cadron but there may be others.
This push by state agencies is also an opportunity for us to ask for new gauges on streams where we need them. We need to list locations where gauges might be beneficial and then prioritize. I will discuss these with ANRC. Club members should contact a board member with any suggestions for a gauge location.
Where we are: A week before Christmas I met to discuss water trails with new speaker of the state house of representatives; Robert Moore. Several other state legislators were there, along with representatives from Arkansas Game and Fish and Arkansas State Parks. Speaker Moore is very interested in the idea of water trails for sustainable economic development in eastern and southern Arkansas. I have proposed a partnership with state and federal agencies, local businesses, communities and municipalities, environmental and recreational groups.
The potential for water trails is endless. The wetlands of eastern and southern Arkansas are unique in the nation. Areas we have explored include: Wattensaw Bayou, Cache River, Bayou DeView, Maddox Bay, East Lake, Crooked Lakes, H Lake, Cut Bluff Slough, Essex Bayou and others along the White River and several areas in the Felsenthal refuge.
A camping platform is planned for Wattensaw Bayou. We are waiting for AGFC attorneys to release the Memorandum of Understanding before beginning work. I received word last week that we have been moved to the top of the list.
What needs to be done: We will continue working with speaker Moore and state agencies to build a partnership in order to construct a paddling trail system which will be a economic and environmental benefit to Arkansas and our members.
Where we are: Several cleanups have gone well. ACC was a major factor at the Lee Creek cleanup and several of us participated in the Buffalo River Cleanups this year. The Cossatot cleanup was not well attended but did not have very much advance groundwork.
ACC members have always been good about cleaning up after themselves and many even clean up after others every time they go to the river. We have done this long before the term, “Leave No Trace,” was ever coined. However, many of us have not done as much as we could in this area.
What needs to be done: We need to do more to promote and support cleanups in our state. Except for the Lee Creek Cleanup our turn out to Keep Arkansas Beautiful events has been low. Litter and trash are harmful to wildlife and ruin the natural beauty of our state. We should more vocally support, Leave No Trace, ethics in our membership. Every day on the river should be a cleanup day.
Where we are: As most of you know by now we have been successful in putting a stop to the River Valley Regional Water Districts attempts to get a dam on Lee Creek. The Corp studies showed that Lake Fort Smith should provide an ample supply of water for the area for at least 50 years. We are still concerned that this issue will arise again and have been looking for ways to further insure the safety of Lee Creek.
What needs to be done: After looking into what can be done to reduce the chances of new attempts to dam the creek, we have been convinced that it would be nearly impossible to get the dam de-authorized. It would not be politically popular. After talking to American Rivers and the US fish and Wildlife Service I now believe that our best bet might be to have it recommended for National Wild and Scenic River status. We will need to find a friendly senator to bring it before congress. We are working with the Ozark Society on this possibility.
Other Conservation Issues:
Water Forum at Rendezvous: Our joint efforts with the Arkansas Public Policy Panel were a success on Friday night of Rendezvous. A group of around 60 people came and had red beans and rice provided by the Arklatex chapter and stayed late. Thanks to Dave Robertson for giving Lee Creek posters to everyone. They were a real hit.
Wilson Creek: UMETCO has petitioned to weaken standards for release of waste products into Wilson Creek near Malvern. Malvern wants our support in opposing these changes. The UMETCO site has other larger problems with heavy metals.
Buffalo River and Marble Falls: The National Park Service is still not happy with ADEQ’s resolution of the Marble Falls sewer leaks. The National Parks Conservation Association has asked us to write a letter of support for quicker action to government officials.
Jasper sewer system: A new treatment facility is being planned to replace the inadequate treatment plant that frequently overflowed into the Little Buffalo.
Dam on Saline River: The City of Benton is attempting to dam an upper tributary of the Middle Fork of the Saline River. Benton was invited by Malvern to get water from the Ouachita River but refused. This is the same story as Lee Creek. The ACC is opposed to this unnecessary dam.
Gas Wells in the Ozark-St Francis National Forest: Latest projections are for over 1700 wells. We will be working with other conservation organizations to keep an eye on these operations. We need to ask membership to be aware of best management practices and report problems.