The Arkansas River is a work in progress and has been since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, aided and abetted by local chambers of commerce along the Arkansas river, began to thump the tubs for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS). The promotion of the project is standard operating procedure (SOP) and began with the promise of economic development and job creation. I’m sure you know the drill – right out of an old movie. “Field of Dreams.” Build it and they will come! Promises were made such as river (barge) traffic will increase transportation capacity and promote a competitive advantage for shipping commodities up and down the system. In the 40′s and 50′s no one could have predicted the present energy crunch, and of course, that reality throws a monkey wrench in the equation. The system was completed in the 1950′s and has been going full blast at about 25% capacity for more than fifty years. Ironically, the major cargo is not commodities as originally promoted, but is principally sand, gravel, rock and other cargo to keep the system operational. The predicted traffic in shipping commodities has not materialized, and they are being transported by truck. Admittedly, one would assume that barge transportation would provide cost benefits over trucking over the interstate system for producers. But this has not come to pass. Barge traffic in commodities didn’t materialize. An article entitled “Slack Times at Slackwater Harbor “ appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 27, 2003, deriding the intermodal facility at Little Rock for its lack of activity. A similar facility is presently being proposed for the Russellville area. It has been pointed out by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation at public hearings on this proposed project that existing intermodal facilities at Fort Smith, Van Buren and Little Rock are sadly underutilized and to add another such system at this time makes no economic sense at all.
There have been numerous other miscalculations on MKARNS by the Corps such as the need to add Montgomery Point Lock and Dam to the system to correct a flaw that developed where the river runs into the Mississippi River. A miscalculation on flood easements needed when the river floods adjacent farmlands and stands for prolonged periods of time has caused discontent on the part of farmers along the river. At the present time, there is a proposal by the corps to deepen the present 9 foot channel to 12 feet, the entire length of the river. The purpose of this enlargement is to allow deeper draft barges to carry heavier loads of sand, gravel, rock and other materials up and down the river. In our opinion, there are other problems with MKARNS, but this will give you some idea of the arrogance of the U.S. Corps of Engineer when it comes to water development projects.
The White River/Grand Prairie Irrigation project is still on hold for now. The injunction issued by the Honorable William R. Wilson under the Endangered Species Act remains in effect. Judge Wilson was fairly specific in issuing the injunction in pointing out what the Corps of Engineers and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service need to do to comply with the Endangered Species Act. First, he ordered that more study should be conducted around the pump station site to determine if the Ivory-billed Woodpecker would be effected by construction or operation of the pump and initial part of the delivery system. Second, Judge Wilson found that the Corps should study those parts of the river basin which were effected by “significant” water withdrawals impacting trees 12” inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) or greater.
The Corps and the WRID recently announced that the studies which they claim will satisfy the requirements of the ESA have been done. They announced that they have studied around the pump station and, while finding some nesting cavities that could be Ivory-billed Woodpecker nests, they found no evidence of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. They further said that an area across from the pump station was studied to determine the impact to bottomland hardwoods, particularly trees 12” dbh or greater. The announcement concluded by saying this report would be presented to Judge Wilson “in the next couple of months”. The Corps and the WRID were confident that the injunction would be lifted and construction on the pump station re-started.
In 2006, the Arkansas Legislative Council directed the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to take another look at the costs of the White River/Grand Prairie Irrigation Project. All parties, including the Corps and The Natural Resources Commission, agreed that the costs had increased from the $319 million figure from 1999. Some officials commented that it might be as high as $700 million but wanted the Natural Resources Commission to engage an “independent evaluation of the costs” in order to provide a true and clear picture of the costs. The legislature was adamant that the study be independent and objected and directed The Natural Resources Commission to spend up to $250,000.00 if necessary to commission such a study.
Earlier this year, the WRID and The Natural Resources Commission announced that the study had been conducted and the costs had increased. This supposedly independent study said the costs had increased from between $390 million to as high as $435 million. The study was done by an economics professor at the University of Arkansas. He stated that the study was done by taking the Corps numbers from 1999 and adjusting them for inflation. No effort was made to determine if the Corps numbers from 1999 were accurate or if the cost estimate included everything that needed to be included. The author went on to state that even with the elevated cost, the project was still feasible because of the increase in the price of farm commodities resulting in higher farm gross income. However, the study was not independent and did not meet the mandate of the Legislative Council. It remains to be seen if that body will hold The Natural Resources Commission’s feet to the fire and demand the study.
Because it is clear the costs have increased, The Natural Resources Commission submitted legislation to the General Assembly in the 2007 session asking that a measure be put on the 2008 General Election ballot increasing their bonding authority from $300 million to $600 million in General Obligation Bonds and allowing them to issue up to $100 million of these bonds without legislative authority. This $100 million would be earmarked solely for irrigation projects, i.e. Grand Prairie, Bayou Meto, Beouff-Tensas and others. The measure passed and is slated for the 2008 ballot.
On the federal level the U. S. House of Representatives did not include any money for the White River/Grand Prairie Irrigation Project. The Senate version does include money for the project and the matter now goes to the Joint Budget Conference Committee for the differences to be worked out. In years past the amount that makes it into the final appropriation is either less than the Senate amount or completely eliminated.
While it is on hold, the White River/Grand Prairie Irrigation Project is alive and well and awaiting release from the injunction to move forward. After that, only massive amounts of taxpayer money stand in the way of it being completed.
The Lower White River Navigation Channel Improvement Project
A 250-mile navigation channel is presently maintained on the Lower White. It provides for an 8-foot deep channel to Augusta, Arkansas, and about 4.5 feet to Newport. Since the original project was finished 30 years ago, barge interests and the Corps have been promoting the creation of a nine-foot deep channel, similar to other large navigable waterways. Even though barge traffic is minimal on the river, navigation interests want to spend millions more dollars to make the channel deeper. First, they promoted a plan to dredge the shallow areas. The public and politicians responded quickly and successfully stopped the plan from going through. It was even de-authorized by Congress in 1988.
Then in 1996, the study was re-authorized to examine the potential for deepening the channel through the use of more than a hundred wing dikes scattered at more than 30 locations along the river. The study has received some funding from Congress, but it has often-times slowed because of intense opposition from Arkansans. The expanded navigation project is opposed by virtually every major conservation group and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Thousands of citizens have signed petitions calling for the de-authorization of this project. On four occasions in the winter and spring of 2001, Arkansas’ state legislators failed to pass bills that would have provided money to construct the deeper channel.
The dikes and some continued dredging would negatively impact wildlife refuges on the river, would impact sloughs and oxbow lakes, and other hydrologic changes would occur. The ecologically valuable habitat of the channel would disappear forever, taking spawning habitat with it. Reduced flooding of bottomland forests, important wetland habitats, will cause drastic changes in plant community structure, thus impacting ducks, fish and other species that depend on these plants. These natural resources are important to a nature based economy in the region contributing millions of dollars annually.
The Grand Prairie Area Demonstration Project is a $319 million dollar irrigation project, which proposes to alleviate pressure on rapidly the declining Alluvial and Sparta aquifers in the Grand Prairie region of Arkansas, through the irrigation of rice farms with surface water from the White River. The project will pump as much as 1.06 billion gallons a day form the white river distributing it to 867 farms through a 650-mile distribution system that includes 184 miles of new canals, 177 miles of new pipeline, and 120 low-water dams. It is not hard to imagine how devastating this project will be to the internationally acclaimed wetlands, and some of the many diverse ecological communities which reside there. The plan does not explore, environmentally sound, less costly alternatives (link to PDF on alternatives to GP) to the issue of the declining aquifers.
Grand Prairie and Effects on Wildlife
Currently White River water contributes immensely to the health and vitality of the ecosystem that exists on the river and within the vast seasonal flood plane. In addition, the water from the White River is the life blood of Cache River and the White River National Wildlife Refuges down stream. Many plants and wildlife which are adapted to the natural flood cycles of the river will be negatively affected as flood water is removed for the project. The Army Corp of Engineers has failed to conduct a thorough analysis of the projects effects on the wildlife in the area, not to mention the recently rediscovered Ivory billed woodpecker.
Based on the current plan the Project will threaten: The largest concentration of mallard ducks in North America, which come to the area to winter, along with numerous species of migratory songbirds, waterfowl, and other birds. In addition a diverse freshwater fishery which includes more than 100 species of fish and more than 30 species of mussels is a risk. The only remaining native population of black bears in Arkansas, the pink mucket Muscle and other threatened species, many non-game wildlife species, including the bobcat, alligator snapping turtle and mink are all at risk from this project.
Grand Prairie Irrigation and the Ivorybill Woodpecker
Following the recent rediscovery of the Ivory billed woodpecker in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in 2005, a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has yet be re-administered after the final EIS was conducted in 2001 before the rediscovery of the woodpecker. Even though the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stated in 2001 that water withdrawals could affect overall habitat values, including possible long term changes in species composition throughout the area, they still gave the go ahead to the Corps. In addition a formal endangered species act consultation has not been conducted to asses the impacts that the river withdrawals will have on the Ivory bill. The complaint states that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not completing an adequate survey of the project’s potential impact on the woodpecker and its habitat.
The Arkansas Wildlife Federation is committed to establishing youth conservation clubs in all middle and high schools and colleges throughout the state. Jimmy Reynolds, President of AWF and his wife Melissa, are co-founders of the Youth Conservation Clubs of Arkansas. Jimmy and Melissa Reynolds are working with the AWF state offices to encourage science teachers in middle and high schools and colleges statewide to begin establishing youth conservation clubs. Below are the requirements and expectations of each youth club.
Each youth conservation club must do the following:
Here is what the Arkansas Wildlife Federation will do for each youth conservation club. After they have secured 10 members or more and filed this list with the AWF office with the $50 membership, AWF will immediately prepare and mail the following materials:
The Conservation Education and Information Committee and AWF staff are committed to establishing youth conservation clubs throughout the state during 2008-2009. AWF is exciting and committed to involving thousands students in Arkansas promoting and implementing positive conservation programs at the county, city and community levels.
AWF is the largest and oldest wildlife conservation organization in Arkansas with over 4000+ members in every county in Arkansas. AWF has had a long history of 75-plus years of service in promoting the interests, needs, and programs that benefit hunters and anglers throughout the state. AWF invites hunter and angler clubs and camps throughout Arkansas to become a member of the “Sportsmen Camo Coalition” within the Arkansas Wildlife Federation. Each Sportsmen Camo Coalition club will pay a $50 membership dues or have at least 10 members who agree to pay $5 each to join. Also, if you are in an area without a hunting or fishing club and wish to join the sportsmen camo coalition, you can join as an at-large member which is still only $5 annual membership dues. Through the Sportsmen Camo Coalition, each member will receive the bi-monthly newspaper Arkansas Out-Of-Doors which keeps members informed of key issues and programs impacting Arkansas wildlife and wildlife habitats. Additionally, each Camo Coalition Club and its members will receive special mailings and email alerts from AWF on legislative issues at the state and national levels that impact hunting and fishing practices. AWF encourages local Sportsmen Camo Coalition Clubs to send in articles for the Arkansas Out-Of-Doors and to keep AWF informed of issues and needs of hunters and anglers throughout the state. These Sportsmen Camo Coalition Clubs become the eyes and ears of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation in promoting, protecting, and enhancing wildlife and wildlife habitats, and the natural resources of Arkansas for present and future generations. There will be an annual meeting of the Sportsmen Camo Coalition Clubs usually held each August during the AWF annual meeting that offers workshops, seminars, and sporting exhibits of interest to hunters, anglers and other outdoor sportsmen. AWF invites hunting and fishing clubs or camps to join the Sportsmen Camo Coalition Club of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation in helping keep Arkansas as “The Natural State.” If you are interested in establishing a Sportsmen Camo Club in your community, call or email Jack Blackstone, Executive Director of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation shown below.
You can remember a loved one with a memorial gift or honorarium to the Arkansas Wildlife Federation.
Memorial gifts: If you would like to remember someone who loved wildlife, hunting, fishing and the great outdoors of Arkansas, you can make a gift in that person’s name. What a beautiful tribute to their memory. Your memorial gift will continue the work of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and keep a loved one’s spirit alive through wildlife conservation.
Honorarium Gift: Are you puzzled what to give friends or family members who “have everything?” Will an ordinary gift just not be enough? Then, consider making a donation to the Arkansas Wildlife Federation in their honor and acknowledge their special day, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, or whatever they are celebrating. Your gift is a special recognition to this individual or family in support of wildlife conservation programs.
Make a difference by completing the attached form and mailing it to:
Memorial – Honorarium Gifts
Arkansas Wildlife Federation
9108 N. Rodney Parham Road, Suite 101
Little Rock, AR 72205
Joining the Arkansas Wildlife Federation assures that your voice will be heard and that your interests will be protected when and where it counts! Over the years, the AWF has worked with other agencies and organizations to achieve many conservation victories. Here are a few of our accomplishments:
None of this is possible without your help.
*All contributors will receive a year’s membership in AWF and a copy of
Arkansas Out-of-Doors. Please specify if you would like a hard copy or you would like to Go Green and receive an electronic copy.
e-mail or call 501-888-4770. We accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.
*If you choose to mail your check or credit card information, along with your contact information, please send it to the address below:
Arkansas Wildlife Federation
P.O. Box 56380
Little Rock, AR 72215
**The Arkansas Wildlife Federation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and our tax identification number is 71-6059226. Thank you for your generous contribution and support!
AWF has several autonomous affiliate organizations throughout the state. Some of these groups were formed to work on specific projects in their local areas, such as the Yell County Wildlife Federation. Other groups that affiliate with the AWF are groups that already exist, but want to provide more support on issues affecting the entire state. An example of this type of affiliation is the Wattensaw Bowhunters Association.
Any organization with at least 10 members may apply for affiliation. The affiliation fee is $50/organization/year. Each organization will receive a hard copy of Arkansas Out-of-Doors and free electronic copies to all of its members who supply us with an e-mail address. The affiliate organization can publish its news and upcoming events, if submitted before deadline (check with our editor), in Arkansas Out-of-Doors at no charge. All affiliate applications are subject to approval by the AWF Board of Directors. For more information on affiliation, contact the AWF office.
AWF needs outstanding volunteers like you!
The Arkansas Wildlife Federation is a federation of individuals, businesses, organizations, youth and college students – all volunteers, who are committed to natural resource conservation. Volunteers are the backbone of the Federation, without which we would not be able to continue our work. AWF welcomes you to join us! Look over the many opportunities available below. If any of them interest you give us a call or fill out a volunteer application form and return it to us. We’ll put you to work! AWF will provide extensive training and information to all volunteers before you begin your volunteer activities:
Get Involved! Volunteer!
Phone number (501) 224-9200
AWF has worked with an outstanding wildlife photographer who has taken excellent wildlife photos used by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation in various publication. His name is : Tim Carr, 201 W, Parkway, Russellville, AR 72801, 479-968-5305.
Other AWF Members and Volunteers supply photography of nature, wildlife and events for our usage as well. If you have a great photo of Arkansas wildlife or nature, feel free to submit it for our usage. You might find it on our website, Facebook or in an issue of Arkansas Out-of-Doors.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has a system for permitting individuals or organizations to take in sick, injured, or orphaned animals and rehabilitate them for eventual release back into the wild. These wildlife rehabilitators must be experienced in the care of wild animals and have a veterinarian working with them to provide advice on the administration of proper care. Find out how to become a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. For detail information on finding out about Wildlife Rehabbers, go to AGFC.
To find out more about the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, visit their website.
There is an International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. For more information, go to their
Below is a current approved listing of wildlife rehabbers by AGFC that list county, city,
Last name first, first name, phone number, list of wildlife species rehabilitate Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Wildlife Rehabilitators as of April 2013. The link below has multiple links to Bird Rehabilitators and Non-Bird Rehabilitators.
Please recognize that these people are not AGFC employees and perform this service at their own cost.
One of the main factors negatively affecting wildlife populations worldwide is the loss, change, and fragmentation of habitat (picture of cutting down tree) The loss of wildlife habitat as a result of human induced changes has been a large factor contributing to the loss and extinction of wildlife populations worldwide. As population growth continues to increase more and more wildlife habitat will be lost to human development. The National Wildlife Federation is solving this problem through the implementation of the Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program. This program allows you to restore natural wildlife habitat in your own backyard through an official certification. Through the planting of native plants and minimal planning you can restore habitat for wildlife that were here many years before us. Recently the National Wildlife Federation recently surpassed 70,000 backyard habitat certifications!
The program uses a list of criteria including food, water, cover, and places to raise young, to gage habitat quality. To read more about the native plants in your area go here. Go here to learn more about the benefits of backyard habitat