Texas: Groups share ideas for water navigation

Texarkana Gazette


Texas - Many public and private entities plan to spend less time talking about their Red River dreams and more time finding funds and partnerships to make them come true.

The Seventh Annual Regional Water Resource Conference, hosted by the Red River Valley Association, drew politicians, government engineers, landowners and resource planners to the Four Points Sheraton Inn on Friday. Issues varied from the potential water sales from Oklahoma to Texas to potential navigation of the Red River in southwest Arkansas.

But one thing was made clear: The Red River basin could be in store for massive changes, but not until years of initial studies are completed to gauge the potential impact to wildlife and people of the valley. The studies alone will require millions in local, state and federal dollars, with actual construction estimated in the billions in Arkansas.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose Tulsa, Little Rock and Vicksburg, Miss., district jurisdictions converge roughly at the Fulton Bend of the Red, presented their plans for flood control, irrigation, recreation and navigation of the river. Corps Senior Planner Sam Arrowood told about 75 conference attendees about the Corps' plan to study the Red and Little River basins.

"Our philosophy is we're going to try to do comprehensive planning with Millwood and Tri-Lakes habitat restoration, flood damage reduction, water supply, navigation and recreation," Arrowood said. "We're looking at it in a more comprehensive manner and trying to determine what the needs might be."

Arrowood said the Corps plans to examine the impact of Millwood Dam releases on river navigation as well as a revival of efforts to construct levees along the Red in the area of Ogden, Ark. The Tri-Lakes are De Queen, Gillham and Dierks lakes above Millwood.

The study alone could take up to two years, with another two years for the designing of any projects resulting from the discussions. The Corps of Engineers is seeking local sponsors to assist with funding or services.

Arrowood urged any other entities to submit their ideas by August or call 501-324-5025 if they would like to be included as a sponsor.

Another major study yet to get under way is the Oklahoma Water Resources Board look at the Kiamichi River basin in southeast Oklahoma. The study is in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, which has expressed an interest in a number of dam-free rivers in McCurtain County replete with rare wildlife.

"A lot of this has been generated by the proposed or possible sale of water to Texas," said OWRB representative Kelly Self of Hugo, Okla.

A three-year moratorium on the sale of Oklahoma water to Texas was imposed in 2002, pending the outcome of the upcoming studies. In 1999, Oklahoma completed a network of 99 water quality monitoring sites statewide, including five stations in McCurtain County.

Kalven Trice, Arkansas State Conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service, said the 2002 Farm Bill would bring many of the environmental stewardship ideas to private landowners nationwide, with a particular impact to forest landowners in the Red River region. He also hopes to attract more local entities to assist in getting the NRCS practices "on the ground."

Under the bill, Trice said non-industrial private forest landowners would be eligible for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, which pays farmers and ranchers for implementing conservation methods on their property.


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