The Buffalo River Conservation Committee (BRCC) met at their quarterly meeting Monday, 11/30/21 in Marshall, AR. Secretary Wes Ward, Director of Agriculture, presided over the meeting. Chris Colclasure, Director of the Natural Resources Division within the Department of Agriculture was also present.
As a reminder, Governor Asa Hutchinson established BRCC on September 23, 2019 to benefit water quality and resource management in the Buffalo River Watershed with emphasis on items that engage local stakeholders and landowners that have a positive impact on water quality and are beneficial for landowners in the watershed.
Membership consists of the Sec. of Dept. of Agriculture; Sec. of Dept. of Energy and Environment; Sec. of Dept. of Health; and Sec. of Dept. of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
Funding for BRCC efforts is provided by Governor Hutchinson and the member agencies together to financially support BRCC. Members are required to work in cooperation with one another to identify opportunities to leverage each department’s unique expertise, relationships, focus areas and funding mechanisms in support of vitality of the watershed.
BRCC includes a subcommittee of key stakeholders representing local landowners, conservation organizations, environmental and technical experts, representatives of the tourism industry, local county and municipal officials plus federal partners. The Subcommittee assists with identifying opportunities for training, relationship building and specific projects, in service to preserving and enhancing water quality within the Buffalo River Watershed.
A brief summary of Monday’s reports: The $2500 tree planting project is on-going in Marshall Park with sugar maples. The Nature Conservancy provided a $2500 match to secure more trees; they now have more trees that need to be planted.
The Cane Branch Road work project is complete with additional culverts. Ryan Benefield spoke about the Jasper wastewater project grant/pump-station and the need to provide Jasper with more funds. The failing Marble Falls wastewater treatment plant will also need financial assistance in order to replace it. Septic tank issues near or in the watersheds of Beaver Reservoir (upper white River), Buffalo River and the Illinois River were an ongoing discussion. Sec. Hurst spoke about how important tourism is to Arkansas’s economy. Visitors to the Buffalo brought in $63 million last year. The American Rescue Plan is appropriating $1.57 billion for Arkansas. Gov. Hutchinson has appointed three working groups to move forward with planning for expanding Broadband; Wastewater and Municipal water issues, groundwater, floods and levees although wastewater problems are on hold for now.
Chris Colclasure and Wes Ward also spoke about clean water, wastewater, and pipe studies (how much do we have in Arkansas). In coming years $44.6 million of the American Rescue plan will go to safe drinking water, $22.7 million goes to “clean water” and trying to work on nutrient problems. BRCC is still studying unpaved road issues in the Buffalo River Watershed.
One million dollars was initially allocated to BRCC. Slightly more than $49,000 remains in funds. Several suggestions have been made on best use for the remaining money, however BRCC will reserve those funds for now. In April, feral hog removal cost Game & Fish around $50,000 for traps (with corn). 481 hogs were removed from the Buffalo River Watershed.
Sec. Keogh was the last speaker and reminded everyone that the total eclipse in two years will be seen best in Arkansas. The great impact on tourism will require putting many programs in place, considering lodging, parking, seating, trash management. They will share eclipse planning with Buffalo National. River Superintendent, Mark Foust.