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Dec. 19, 2003
Morning News outdoor article:
Meeting Kicks Off Effort To Improve West Fork
Landowners, Agencies To Work Together To Improve Stream

By Flip Putthoff

WEST FORK -- Concerns ranging from chicken litter to old railroad ties in the West Fork of the White River were raised Thursday at the first meeting to create a plan for improving water quality in the stream.

The stream has been designated an impaired waterway by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality because of turbidity in the water. Sediment from bank erosion and road construction is mainly to blame, according to the agency.

Melissa Terry, conservation organizer for Audubon Arkansas, was host of the meeting to hear concerns adjacent landowners have about the stream and begin a plan for improving conditions along the West Fork.

The meeting at the West Fork Community Center drew 16 participants.

West Fork resident Sue Ogle said recreation is one of several reasons she wants to see improvements on the stream.

"The Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs kids come here to fish once a year and they really enjoy it," Ogle said, adding there is much that can be done to improve the West Fork.

Truman Drummond, who owns a farm near Winslow, said he doesn't think spreading chicken litter on streamside land is contributing to the stream's turbidity.

"Those nutrients on the land grow grass that acts as a filter," Drummond said. His main concern is pollution from sewage treatment plants at West Fork and Fayetteville.

Meeting participants agreed addressing the turbidity problem was a good start for a watershed plan for the West Fork of the White River.

Terry noted some landowners along the stream are losing up to 4 acres of land per year because of stream bank erosion. Preventing erosion costs less than restoring land, she said.

Terry gave the example of a landowner on the Middle Fork of the White River who completed a $45,000 stream bank restoration project. The property owner was able to secure a $30,000 government grant but still had to pay $15,000 out of his own pocket.

ADEQ Watershed Coordinator Ellen McNulty gave a presentation about a similar watershed project taking place on Bayou Bartholomew in southeast Arkansas. Members of that watershed team have planted more than 1 million seedling trees to prevent bank erosion and removed tons of debris.

Terry said other water quality issues on the West Fork include aging sewer pipes in Fayetteville that allow raw sewage to leach into the West Fork and construction projects in Fayetteville that contribute to turbidity. South Fayetteville is part of the West Fork watershed that covers 103 square miles from Winslow north to Fayetteville.

The next West Fork watershed meeting will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at the town's community center. Terry said an ADEQ representative will be on hand to discuss the agency's findings during a four-year soil assessment and biological assessment on the West Fork of the White River.


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