Official: take steps now to protect Beaver water for future generations

Friday, November 4, 2005
Attorney Lewis Epley (middle), after serving 35 years as counsel for the Carroll-Boone Water District, will be retiring at the end of this year. He was presented with a gourmet cake from plant manager John Summers (left) and office manager Jim Allison at the district's last meeting of the year Oct. 27. Kathryn Lucariello / Carroll County News

CARROLL COUNTY -- If protecting the water quality of Beaver Lake for current and future generations is important, it needs to start soon, and the Beaver Water District is taking the lead by urging counties in the Beaver Lake watershed to take proactive steps now.

Beaver Water District Chief Operations Officer Larry Lloyd and consultant Tom Wilkerson spoke to the board of the Carroll-Boone Water District at its quarterly meeting Oct. 27 and outlined a master plan and ordinance being considered by officials in Benton County.

Lloyd said he and Wilkerson are presenting their plan to the other three water districts that draw drinking water from Beaver Lake: Carroll-Boone, Madison, Washington/Benton.

He said there is a 700,000-acre watershed that feeds into Beaver Lake. Tremendous population growth in northwest Arkansas in the last 10 years is starting to have a major impact on water quality at the Beaver District end of the lake.

In the recent past, the Beaver Water District has been cited by the Arkansas Department of Water Quality for sediment contamination.

"We covet your water quality at this end of the lake," Lloyd told the board. "We're at the upper end of the lake, and Two Ton (Washington/Benton) is seeing some impact. Carroll-Boone and Madison haven't seen it yet."

Population will nearly double in Benton County by 2025, he said. Currently one of every eight Arkansans gets drinking water from Beaver Lake.

He said the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assists in monitoring water quality and quantity.

"How to keep the lake clean is to persuade counties to consider zoning," Wilkerson said. "This is not about stopping growth, it's about managing growth. You have developers buying out farmers and building subdivisions. There is no regulation. We need to develop political strategies to try to change that."

The ordinance Benton County is considering will create the Beaver Lake Watershed Protection Area for Benton County and do the following:

1. Prohibit some kinds of uses in the watershed, such as nuclear power plants, landfills, hazardous chemical facilities, quarries, cement and asphalt plants.

2. Establish four special use areas and riparian (stream and creek) buffers. Special use areas are established at 1/4 mile increments from the lake: single-family residences of one house per acre in the first 1/4 mile; light retail, single-family and multi-family residential in the second 1/4 to 1/2 mile; light commercial in the 1/2 to 3/4 mile; and light industrial in the 3/4 to 1 mile range.

Riparian buffers prohibit construction within 150 feet from a stream or creek centerline on those waterways designated by the USGS or the 100-year floodplain, whichever is greater.

The ordinance also mandates a one-time administrative fee of $500 for a certificate of compliance and an inspection fee of 25 cents per square foot of construction.

Existing uses will be grandfathered in, but a four-month moratorium on new development will ensue if the ordinance passes.

Wilkerson encouraged Carroll-Boone to propose a similar plan in Carroll County.

"One thing I hear is, 'We should have done this 30 years ago,'" Wilkerson said. "Well, you are in a position to be thinking about that now while your water quality is still good."

In other business, the board:

* Approved the 2006 budget, with a $284,000 increase for the cost of electricity. Office Manager Jim Allison said electricity cost jumped 37 percent in September alone. The new perating budget projects $1.8 million in water sales and $1.6 million in expenses, leaving a net operating profit of $191,000.

* Approved 4.1 percent across-the-board raises for regular staff and raises for Allison and Plant Manager John Summers.

* Heard Summers report the district had saved $146,000 through load-shedding this year but may not be able to do so next year because of rising fuel costs, making running generators less cost-effective than using electricity.

* Heard Summers report that with this year's drought it has been difficult getting enough water to Green Forest and Harrison without using the booster station, as there is a bottleneck at the Carroll-Boone tank. The district's engineers will look at the baffle system.

* Discussed the possibility of laying a 30-inch line for 3.95 miles from Berryville to the Greenberry booster station to bypass a rock quarry that is damaging the existing line when rock shifts.

* Approved the low bid by Koontz Electric Co. of Morrilton, Ark., to make filter control modifications at the plant.

* Declined a request by First National Bank of Berryville to secure district reserves with private surety bonds instead of government securities.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2, 2006.

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