Wa­ter qual­ity spe­cial­ist speaks about sed­i­men­ta­tion prob­lems

Texarkana Gazette - - METRO/STATE - By Jen­nifer Mid­dle­ton

The wa­ter qual­ity and sed­i­men­ta­tion spe­cial­ist for the Sul­phur River Basin Au­thor­ity spoke about the amount of sed­i­men­ta­tion in Wright Pat­man Lake dur­ing Tues­day’s reg­u­lar meet­ing of Friends United for a Safe En­vi­ron­ment.

Dr. Mike But­trem, who has worked with SRBA and the Clean Rivers Pro­gram for many years, ex­plained how sed­i­men­ta­tion ends up in the lake, which serves as the area’s pri­mary wa­ter source. He pointed to a map that showed the North Sul­phur River Basin where Sul­phur Creek used to flow.

“In 1928, the Sul­phur Im­prove­ment Dis­trict was cre­ated,” But­trem said. It was also known as Fan­nin, La­mar and Delta County Levee Dis­trict 3.

“When they cre­ated that, they chan­nel­ized 18.6 miles of the creek, which flows right into Wright Pat­man Lake,” he said, adding that the chan­nel was cut to be 16 feet wide and 10 feet deep. “When they did it, the en­gi­neers told them it was go­ing to be a catas­tro­phe. Be­cause when you straighten out streams, you cre­ate prob­lems. Now, of course, you do.”

He showed a slide of that por­tion of the North Sul­phur River, which now mea­sures ap­prox­i­mately 300 feet wide and 60 to 80 feet deep. While it was straight­ened to keep the creek from flood­ing the farm­land along the river, But­trem said the ac­tion caused a steep loss

The en­gi­neers told them it was go­ing to be a catas­tro­phe. Be­cause when you straighten out streams, you cre­ate prob­lems.” —Dr. Mike But­trem

for those farm­ers.

“Three thou­sand acres of land have been lost, which is 180,000 acre-feet of soil,” he said. That ma­te­rial flowed down into Lake Wright Pat­man, where stud­ies have shown it is hold­ing less wa­ter than in the 1960s, when it was cre­ated by putting a dam on the Sul­phur River.

But­trem also showed a slide of Texarkana Wa­ter Util­i­ties’ in­take struc­ture on the north­east por­tion of the lake, which was sur­rounded by sed­i­ment. He said it’s ba­si­cally a con­crete trough with a metal grate over it where wa­ter flows into a tube where it’s pumped to the wa­ter treat­ment sta­tion. He pointed out that that area fills with sed­i­ment and that In­ter­na­tional Pa­per paid to have it cleared out a few years ago so they could get wa­ter for oper­a­tions.

“In­ter­na­tional Pa­per wanted them to re­lease wa­ter so they could dump their ponds in the river over in Arkansas, and they had to have a cer­tain amount of wa­ter com­ing down through there for reg­u­la­tions. They came along and they paid to have that sed­i­ment dredged out so they could let some more wa­ter out. It cost half a mil­lion dol­lars to dredge it,” he said, point­ing at the slide. “If you didn’t be­lieve in sed­i­men­ta­tion be­fore, now you can ac­tu­ally see it, see the im­pact, and it’s cost­ing money to go in and re­move the sed­i­ment. Not only that, but you’re los­ing a lot of your prop­erty.”

An­other slide dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion was of the Texas Wa­ter De­vel­op­ment Board’s 2017 State Wa­ter Plan, which shows a neg­a­tive 39 per­cent change in the avail­able wa­ter in Sul­phur River Basin.

“That’s a huge num­ber. That means that our basin has a lot of prob­lems,” he said. “Al­most all that num­ber—I went back and looked at the data part— al­most all of it comes from Wright Pat­man Lake. If you go up to Jim Chap­man Lake and the up­per part of the basin, it’s al­most zero up there. No per­cent­age at all. But Wright Pat­man is where it is. We have a huge sed­i­men­ta­tion prob­lem. Sure enough, look­ing around the wa­ter in­take struc­ture, we def­i­nitely have one. You can see it.”

The next FUSE meet­ing is sched­uled for Jan. 9, 2018.

Staff photo by Jen­nifer Mid­dle­ton

Dr. Mike But­trem, sed­i­men­ta­tion and wa­ter qual­ity spe­cial­ist for the Sul­phur River Basin Au­thor­ity, speaks at Tues­day’s meet­ing of Friends United for a Safe En­vi­ron­ment. But­trem ex­plained how the straight­en­ing of a por­tion of the Sul­phur River con­trib­utes to sed­i­men­ta­tion in Wright Pat­man Lake.

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