Arkansas Game & Fish along with the Arkansas Nature Conservancy made a presentation to the Harrison City Council’s Finance Committee during their regularly scheduled meeting last Thursday night regarding the design process for the proposed Lake Harrison weir removal project.
No decision has been made regarding the weir. The city council is currently considering investing $10,000 in a 30% design plan that would include a more accurate projection of total costs. If approved at the regular February council meeting The Arkansas Nature Conservancy will create a 30% design plan with cost projections, giving the city the necessary information to present to the public for feedback. Mayor Jerry Jackson and some council members spoke to the initial support they have received from community members about the proposal, but also said the project will have multiple public hearings and forums before a final decision is made.
Joy Wasson of the Arkansas Nature Conservancy said the project could cost between $700,000 – $800,000, but an accurate estimation of cost will not be known until the 30% design study is done. The total cost of Lake Harrison to the city over its life, including construction, has been approximately $3.2 million with a current annual expense of $31,000 for sediment clean out. This cost has been greatly deferred by FEMA funds in the past but Public Works Director Wade Phillips warned that repeated funding from FEMA for the same project will likely stop. A free-flowing creek will have little or no maintenance cost once the initial construction and restoration is completed.
Mayor Jackson gave his support to the proposal for further design study citing the cost of the lake and the recurring geese population that visit Lake Harrison and cover the surrounding park with their droppings. This issue is one that Mayor Jackson has tried to remedy in the last year but says his fixes will only be temporary as geese are attracted to still bodies of water.
Councilman Chris Head asked about the possibility of extending the Crooked Creek Water Trail to Harrison if this project goes through. Darrell Bowman with Arkansas Game and Fish said that there is a trail coordinator that would need to weigh in on that aspect of the project but it is something that could be considered.
Councilman Bill Boswell said, “I’m still concerned about the overall cost of the project, but I really have no problem with us pushing forward to full council for approval for $10,000 on our part to get the 30% design and see what the real cost of this project would be.” The finance committee voted unanimously to send this proposal to the full council for discussion and a vote.
If the weir is removed and crooked creek is restored to its natural state a great deal of work will be done to secure its banks and protect against erosion. There will also be a great deal of work done to the park surrounding the creek to restore its aesthetics and functionality. Once construction is started the project is expected to take 3-5 years, working with the partnership of Arkansas Game & Fish and The Nature Conservancy.
Story by Coleman Taylor