Ben­tonville, groups seek dam so­lu­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - MELISSA GUTE

BEN­TONVILLE — Re­mov­ing the Lake Bella Vista dam would im­prove wa­ter qual­ity, re­store the eco­log­i­cal sys­tem and cost less than re­build­ing it, ac­cord­ing to a bi­ol­o­gist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice.

Melissa Lom­bardi spoke Mon­day with David Wright, Ben­tonville Parks and Re­cre­ation di­rec­tor; Erin Rush­ing, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of NWA Trail­blaz­ers; and six mem­bers of the Friends of Lit­tle Sugar Creek.

The Friends of Lit­tle Sugar Creek is a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion ad­vo­cat­ing for the dam to be re­moved and Lit­tle Sugar Creek re­stored. The city had plans to re­place the failed dam,

but is now con­sid­er­ing its op­tions, in­clud­ing re­build­ing or re­mov­ing the dam or let­ting the stream flow past a man­made pond.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of State Dam Safety Of­fi­cials de­clared the dam failed in March 2008 af­ter it was topped dur­ing a storm. It was topped again by flood­ing in 2011, 2013 and De­cem­ber 2015. The lake has been drained and dam gates have re­mained open since the last flood­ing.

Most dams have a life­span of about 50 years. The Lake Bella Vista dam is about 100 years old.

“We’re on life sup­port there,” Lom­bardi, the bi­ol­o­gist, said.

Most wa­ter­shed acreage to lake acreage ra­tios in the Ozarks are 100-to-1. Lake Bella Vista’s is 2,550-to-1, Lom­bardi said, ex­plain­ing that causes more nu­tri­ents to run into the lake. The nu­tri­ents con­cen­trate to high lev­els that al­ter the ecosys­tem.

Im­pounded and slow-mov­ing wa­ter cre­ates poor con­di­tions for sen­si­tive species and bet­ter con­di­tions for al­gae blooms, she said. Flow­ing wa­ter would bring back a health­ier ecosys­tem.

The im­per­vi­ous sur­face within the wa­ter­shed is go­ing to in­crease as de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues, said Ron Miller, Friends mem­ber. The in­creased de­vel­op­ment means more pave­ment and less places for wa­ter to ab­sorbed.

“This is go­ing to be a grow­ing prob­lem with the ur­ban­iza­tion of the area,” he said, adding flood­ing is go­ing to get worse dur­ing large rain events.

Lom­bardi’s pre­sen­ta­tion in­cluded seven pos­si­ble govern­ment fund­ing sources for dam re­moval.

Ken Le­nard, Friends mem­ber, sug­gested pri­vate money may also be avail­able from out­side the com­mu­nity, but didn’t pro­vide de­tails. He also sug­gested FEMA may have some avail­able money.

“They have ap­pro­pri­ated money that if it doesn’t get spent, they’re go­ing to lose it,” he said.

The av­er­age cost to re­move a dam in Pennsylvania, a leader in the coun­try for re­mov­ing dams, is $75,000, Lom­bardi said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice Fish Pas­sage Pro­gram’s Main­te­nance Ac­tion Team has re­moved them for $25,000.

Those costs don’t in­clude stream restora­tion.

“It’s a big de­ci­sion. It’s not a big project,” Lom­bardi said.

Wright said it was help­ful for him to see pos­si­ble fund­ing op­tions. The City Coun­cil will have to make the fi­nal de­ci­sion.

“When we put this in front of the coun­cil, the dol­lars and cents have to make sense,” he said. “I think we’re on the right track.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN GOFF • @NWABENGOFF

A pile of de­bris rests against the spill­way Mon­day at the Lake Bella Vista dam in Ben­tonville.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN GOFF • @NWABENGOFF

A view of dam­age Mon­day on the Lake Bella Vista dam in Ben­tonville.

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