Monday, February 17, 2014

Joe Neal, one of the top broad-ranging biologists in Arkansas, remains unsatisfied with the latest study of the Lake Atalanta park for good reasons

Rogers’ Lake Atalanta Ecological Study Complete

Posted: February 17, 2014 at 5 a.m.
Jeff Overturf checks his fishing rod Friday hoping to catch some trout at Lake Atalanta in Rogers. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission stocks the lake with trout each winter.
STAFF PHOTO FLIP PUTTHOFF Jeff Overturf checks his fishing rod Friday hoping to catch some trout at Lake Atalanta in Rogers. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission stocks the lake with trout each winter.
 — A second ecological study of Lake Atalanta garnered mixed reviews from people who have expressed concern about a lake renovation project.
A study done in November by Theo Witsell, a botanist with the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, focused on on the plants contained in the park.
The second study was done by FTN, water resources/environmental consultants, and focused on the karst (cave) system, springs, plants and animals around Lake Atalanta. The study was done in December and January.


Lake Atalanta Study
An FTN study found:
The impact of the project will be limited and minor.
Improvement to Prairie Creek, within the park north of Walnut Street, would benefit aquatic species, creating varied habitats, such as pool, riffles and runs.
Bike and hiking trails would have minor impact.
Trail density near the head of Frisco Springs could be an issue because of the steep slope.
Source: Staff Report


Project Features
Rogers officials expect to spend $17 million on the Lake Atalanta project. Plans include:
Prairie Creek improvement
Channel stabilization
Hiking, biking trails
Walnut Street improvement
Bike park
Amphitheater, observation tower and parking area
Dredging the lake
Source: Staff Report


To read the FTN study, go to www.
Some residents said they were pleased with the Witsell study the city paid for, but believed a second should be done to address the impact the renovation would have on the lake and park area.
“Anytime soil is disrupted, it will have an impact on an area,” said Travis Scott, an engineer and project manager with FTN. “We determined the impact for the projects planned for the renovation of Lake Atalanta would have a minor impact on plants, animals and the underground karst system that feeds the recharge area of the springs in the park.”
Joe Neal, a retired biologist who lives in Fayetteville, read the report and doesn’t agree with Scott or the report.
“You have to remember, these people are paid by the city to compile the report, this is how they make money,” Neal said.
“The first thing city officials should think about is to do no harm. I don’t think they are doing that. An expert in karst areas and springs should be called in to conduct a proper study before the city does anything around the lake,” Neal said.
“There is no federal or state law that mandates the city must conduct an ecological assessment of Lake Atalanta before moving forward with construction,” Scott said. “City officials are going beyond due diligence.”
Neal said he “assumes” there are Ozark cavefish in the area.
“The FTN study eliminated almost all of this, which allows them to avoid dealing with Ozark cavefish, probably to the great relief of the Rogers officials,” Neal said.
The Ozark cavefish is a small freshwater fish listed on a federal threatened species list. Its existence has caused changes to major projects in Northwest Arkansas over the years.
Scott said FTN has done work in and around Lake Atalanta since 2012.
“We have not seen any evidence of cavefish. One of the top biologists in the state assisted in this study, as did a geologist and a karst expert. The findings were reviewed by senior staff members who have between 20 and 30 years of experience. I stand by the report,” Scott said.
Strad Will, a member of a committee helping formulate the renovation plan, said he thinks the report is fairly well balanced.
“I don’t think it’s biased in anyway,” Will said. “The city wants to keep the park as natural as possible.”
Dredging the lake, one of the major projects, is necessary, Will said.
“The city has to get a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the lake. The city will have to jump through a number of hoops to get the permit. Everything regarding the dredging must be done to corps standards and environmental issues met,” Will said.
Steve Glass, city director of planning and transportation, said he isn’t surprised by anything in the report.
“The report gives us the ability to more forward. It should put many people’s minds at ease that due diligence has been done on the renovation project,” Glass said. “I know some people will still want more studies done, no matter what we say or do.”
More bird and animal studies will be done in the spring to ensure city officials are aware of the different habitats and how the habitats might be impacted during and after renovation, Glass said.
Scott said there’s residential development in the area that also impacts the springs and lake.
“The effluent from septic tanks used in some areas around Lake Atalanta leech into the soil and end up in the springs. Another subdivision near the lake would have a far greater impact on the lake than the projects planned for renovation,” Scott said.
More than 30 people who voiced opinions about the project on the city’s Facebook page were contacted Thursday asking for comment. None responded.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Make a gift to support public education on how to protect our watershed to honor your Valentine

Although you might not connect Valentine's Day with watershed protection, there are few things more precious than clean water. Every day the Center works to help communities and local governments fight pollution and the impacts of development and apply best practices to keep their watersheds healthy and functioning. We offer our top ten list of things each person can do to practice watershed stewardship. In each case, the Center provides the science and practical solutions to help people accomplish those steps.    
Please consider making a donation to the Center for Watershed Protection this Valentine's Day to help restore and protect your favorite waterways.  Even a small contribution provides vital unrestricted support. You can dedicate your contribution to someone you love.    


P.S.  Please take a couple minutes to tell us about your favorite watershed, where it is and why it matters to you. Whether it is in pristine or diminished condition, we would like to know and share with others. By making our watersheds come to life in words, perhaps we can inspire others to care about them like we do. 

Given all the requests you receive, thank you for considering our's.

Happy Valentine's Day,

Hye Yeong Kwon
Executive Director     
 * * * * *

Member of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. The Center has met the 20 rigorous standards in organizational accountability for charities.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Watershed abuse finally hits front-page of Northwest Arkansas Times: Excellent article

Drainage Causes Concern In Fayetteville

Posted: February 1, 2014 at 5 a.m.

A 60 foot section of Scull Creek crosses the front of the vacant lot at 517 N Walnut St in Fayetteville. Because the section of creek is on the cites protected streams map it is preventing construction activities within 50 feet of the stream bank.
FAYETTEVILLE — City officials plan to start a million-dollar drainage project this year that’s been on the to-do list for at least a decade.
“If you want to look at and prioritize projects, this is the biggest one,” Chris Brown, city engineer, said Thursday. “It’s just something we haven’t been able to afford until now.”
The project, in the Washington-Willow neighborhood north of Lafayette Street and east of College Avenue, will divert stormwater from an undersized culvert that backs up in heavy rain.
Sections of the culvert are estimated to be at least 70 years old. In some places it’s a 4-foot-tall channel with stone walls on either side and nothing but soil underneath. In other places, it’s choked to a 30-inch-diameter pipe.
At A Glance
Streamside Protection
Fayetteville’s streamside protection ordinance, enacted in March 2011, prohibits a range of activities within 50 feet of waterways listed on the city’s protected streams map. Restricted activities include:
• Grading, dredging, dumping, filling or similar construction activities
• Landfills, junkyards, salvage yards
• Clearing of non-invasive woody vegetation
• Storage of hazardous material or chemicals unless in waterproof containers and in a structure
• Parking lots
• Buildings and accessory structures with a building footprint larger than 150 square feet
• Parking or storage of motor vehicles
• Septic systems and/or lateral lines
• In-ground pools
• Animal feedlots or kennels
• Housing, grazing or other maintenance of livestock
• Cultivation
• Land application of biosolids
The following activities are allowed in the streamside zone:
• Stream bank restoration or stabilization
• Water quality monitoring, education and scientific studies
• Revegetation and reforestation
• Dam maintenance
• Stream crossings, including driveways, roadways, trails or railroads
• Maintenance and upgrades of utility facilities
• Maintenance of drainage capacity in the channel, including tree and sediment removal
• New stormwater conveyances when the city engineer determines there's no practical and feasible alternative.
Source: City of Fayetteville
The drainage system runs under or near several houses on Maple Street and Walnut Avenue, making it difficult for city crews to remove brush and debris.
The culvert became especially clogged during April 2011 flooding. With nowhere else to go, water popped a manhole cover and poured into yards and multiple homeowners’ basements. What looked like a river rushed down Walnut Avenue.
Eden Reif, who lives at 607 N. Walnut Ave., remembered water up to the top step of her basement.
“To say that it was exciting would be an understatement,” Reif said Friday.
Reif, like other neighbors in the area, doesn’t know what to think about the upcoming project.
“We want to know what they’re planning before we just say, ‘Sure, go ahead,’” she said.
The city will have to acquire land from several property owners to make repairs, Brown said. Streets and sidewalks will be torn up, and longstanding trees may have to be uprooted.
According to preliminary designs, the new drainage system will direct water from a culvert on Olive Avenue, underneath Maple Street and Walnut Avenue and into Scull Creek on the south side of Rebecca Street — in Reif’s backyard.
Brown said a construction timeline isn’t set, but work should get under way sometime this year.
Residents are also concerned about a 60-foot section of Scull Creek on the west side of Walnut.
Engineering staff in January recommended removing the section of creek from the city’s protected streams map.
The map identifies streams with a watershed of at least 100 acres in Fayetteville. A range of activities, including grading, dredging and clearing of non-invasive woody vegetation, are prohibited within 50 feet of protected waterways, according to the streamside protection ordinance, which aldermen approved in March 2011.
Removing the section of creek from the protected streams map would allow Clay Morton to build a house close to the street on what for years has been a vacant lot at 517 N. Walnut Ave. Otherwise, the house would have to be set back at least 50 feet from the creek.
Morton said Thursday he’s wanted to build a house in the Washington-Willow neighborhood for years.
“My wife and I have always wanted to live down there,” he said.
Washington County property records show Morton purchased the 0.2-acre tract in November from Thomas and Mary Kennedy for $80,000. He then began clearing trees on what had been a heavily wooded property.
After a complaint from a neighbor who was aware of the streamside ordinance, city engineers sent Morton a letter warning him to stop clearing the land. Brown said the tree cutting continued, however, and another notice had to be issued Jan. 23. Morton was told he would need to reseed areas where the trees were removed. Brown said Morton won’t be allowed to build near the creek as long as it’s included on the protected streams map. Morton could be fined if he doesn’t mitigate damage that’s been done.
Chris Kaiser, who lives next door to Morton’s property, said Friday she’s opposed to any change to the protected streams map.
“I do not believe that sections of the map should be requested to be removed … just because a developer … might be inconvenienced by having to protect the streamside zone, especially when said developer has already denuded the lot he purchased in violation of the streamside ordinance,” Kaiser wrote.
Kaiser said the protected streams map shouldn’t be modified until city engineers have finalized the design for drainage repair and communicated their plan with neighbors.
Morton said he wasn’t aware of the restrictions on his land when he bought the property.
He said he’s designed two scenarios for the house he wants to build: one with the house close to the stream and aligned with his neighbor’s houses and one with the house farther back from the street.
Morton added the city’s drainage repair should ease flooding on Walnut.
“I feel confident from what I’ve seen of the plans that it’s going to resolve the issue,” he said.
City Council members are scheduled to consider removing the 60-foot section of Scull Creek from the protected streams map Feb. 18.
Web Watch
Flooding Video
Go to the online version of this report at to see a video of April 2011 flooding on Walnut Avenue.