AGFC signs historic minimum flow document

After working toward a solution for more than 13 years, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission last week approved the final piece of an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure a steady flow of water below Bull Shoals Dam on the White River.

The AGFC, Arkansas’s congressional delegation, trout fishing enthusiasts, and area resort owners and outfitters worked together to solidify the agreement to improve the trout fishery below the dam. The White River minimum flow issue is an old one, dating back more than a half century when trout were first stocked in the White River below Bull Shoals Dam as a replacement for the native warm-water fish wiped out by the dam’s cold-water releases.

When water levels drop in late summer and early fall, dam gates are closed to keep Bull Shoals Lake levels high enough so generators can create power from flowing water. Air conditioning systems require the power during hot weather. But trout in the river below the dam need lower water temperatures, deeper water and more area to thrive. With a low or minimum flow of water through the dam, these conditions will improve so trout can survive, according to AGFC fisheries biologists. Trout food producing areas also will be enhanced and expanded.

On hand for the historic event were former commissioners Forrest L. Wood, Mike Freeze and Sonny Varnell. Wood thanked current and former commissioners, and AGFC employees who have continued work on the project.

“It’s a project that makes our organization and our fisheries better. I think we’re going to see a lot of benefits from this in the future,” Wood said.

In other business, the Commission:

  • Approved $97,044 toward a partnership with Audubon Arkansas to promote wildlife viewing on Arkansas’s wildlife management areas.
  • Approved a budget increase of $17,780 to fund an agency employee survey. Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, Va., will conduct the survey.
  • Approved a request to erect a granite Civil War historical monument at the Lee Ferry Access on the Saline River in Grant County. The monument would identify the access as a river crossing during the Battle of Pine Bluff.
  • Approved a $115,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to pay for hardwood and wetland restoration on up to 4,000 acres in the Boeuf River watershed in parts of Chicot and Desha counties in southeastern Arkansas.
  • Approved a new agency vehicle policy.
  • Approved a $227,635 budget increase from a Promoting Ecosystem Resiliency through Collaboration grant. The AGFC, along with The Nature Conservancy, will continue habitat restoration efforts on Gene Rush and Scott Henderson Gulf Mountain wildlife management areas.
  • Received an update on the 2011 elk hunt. The total harvest for the hunt was 26 elk. There were 19 bulls and 7 antlerless elk taken during the hunt.
And More:
LITTLE ROCK — To complete a project started in 1999, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission finalized an an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to establish a minimum flow regimen for the White River below Bull Shoals Dam.

The agreement will provide a consistent flow of water through Bull Shoals Dam into its tail water to improve water quality and habitat for its trout fishery. Trout fishing in the White River attracts anglers from all over the world and is a centerpiece to the tourism industry in north Arkansas.

The commission credited former commissioner Forrest Wood with starting the project, which required cooperation from Congress, the Corps of Engineers, the Southwest Power Administration and the AGFC. A similar agreement is already in effect for the North Fork of the White River below Norfork Dam. Mike Armstrong, AGFC assistant director, said he expects both projects to be operational by fall.

“I just want to continue the thank yous to this commission and to previous commissions,” said Wood, who attended. “I’ve always said I had a higher regard for this agency, the commission and its employees after serving here for seven years. It speaks very well of this organization that this commission will fulfill the promises and obligations of former commissions, and that’s what you have done here today.”

Wood recalled the genesis of the minimum flow proposals. In his first meeting as a commissioner, the group discussed how to partition and allocate fishing opportunities in the two trout streams. A fly fishing zone here, a catch and-release area there.

“I said, ‘Instead of arguing over who gets this little bit of pie, let’s make the pie bigger,’ ” Wood said. “Let’s get minimum flow below the dam.”

Wood also credited former U.S. Reps. Tim Hutchinson, John Boozeman and Marion Berry for cooperating in a nonpartisan fashion to help secure the necessary support in Congress.

Glenn Proffitt, project manager for the Corps of Engineers Little Rock District, praised the commission for persevering and seeing the project through.

“It never would have been possible if not for ya’ll,” Proffitt said.

Stay Fishy My Friends.
Jimmy T


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