In FY19, Arkansas NRCS worked with more than 250 partners to help put conservation on the ground.
Ongoing Program Workload—Active Contracts, Easements
EQIP: 3,438 contracts
CSP: 2,714 contracts
ACEP/WRP: 733 easements
PL-566 Project Along Departee Creek Channel
For almost 26 years, members of the Departee Creek Watershed Improvement District have been working on a way to reduce flooding along Departee Creek in Jackson and Independence counties.
Three sons and one grandson of the original board are current board members and are seeing the work and dedication of their family members come to fruition.
A Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) project began in April 2019 to rehabilitate Departee Creek by removing dead trees and debris from a 13 mile stretch of the stream. The initial project also includes building a weir to ensure Lake Whitstine’s water level isn’t impacted.
“This project aims to alleviate flooding of cropland and grazing lands as well as improve wildlife habitat and water quality,” said Walt Delp, state engineer for the NRCS in Arkansas. “The project will reduce the risk of flooding through a complete system which includes a floodwater reduction dam, conservation easements, selective snagging within the Departee Creek channel and a water control structure for flood control and protection of Lake Whitstine.”
In August 2000, NRCS developed the Departee Creek Watershed Plan. It was updated and revised in 2018 under authority of PL-566 watershed program. Over the years, NRCS staff has surveyed the area for the dam, performed cultural resources surveys, designed the weir, dam and spillway.
The dam will create a 180-acre lake to control flooding. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will manage the lake to provide recreational fishing.
It is estimated the 100-year frequency flood causes damage to 12,000 acres of crop and pasture in the project area. Crop and pasture flooding averages an estimated $236,000 of damage.
While the dam will provide recreational activities, it will also provide 6,071-acre feet of flood retarding capacity, reduce sediment by 90 percent and decrease scour damage by 65 percent. The project will reduce flooding at five road crossings and on school bus routes in the two counties.
“It is great seeing this project start,” said Matt Mendenhall, a current board member whose father, Sy, was on the original board. “It’s because of everyone’s continued support of the last 26 years that we are now able to realize the fruit of our patience and perseverance.”