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Water management threatens Lower White River habitat

Because all things in the outside world are connected, let’s take a look at what happens when you spin your finger in the White River.

Last week, two emails from friends on the north and south ends of the White River made us reflect on the intense degree of human manipulation on all aspects of the White River system. We call Arkansas “the natural state”, but that’s not really the case. Far from it, in fact.

An email came from Steve Dally, a native of Tasmania who moved to Cotter to start Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher guide service. Let this sink for a minute. New Zealand produced the last two brown trout world records, but Dally prefers that in the Ozarks. The presence of trout, a non-native species, is the result of the first major alteration of the White River.

Dally alluded to the evolution of fly fishing techniques that has taken place since the Corps of Engineers established a minimum water flow downstream of Bull Shoals in 2013. You can’t fish it. in the same way as before the minimum flow.

Before minimum flow, the water downstream from Bull Shoals became very low in the summer. Low dissolved oxygen levels and high water temperatures killed trout and limited fishing potential.

Minimum throughput became a reality around the same time the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission won a landmark lawsuit against the Corps of Engineers for damaging state-owned timber in the Wildlife Management Area of Dave Donaldson Black River, near Augusta. For years, the Corps has continuously released large amounts of water from Clearwater Lake in Missouri, inundating lowland deciduous forests downstream, particularly in the WMA.

The Game and Fish Commission won the lawsuit because the Corps violated its policy authorized by Congress to have the lake release large amounts of water into the Black River over extended periods of time.

The Bull Shoals Downstream Minimum Throughput Protocol is also an operational plan authorized by Congress. It took over 20 years for the Game and Fish Commission to persuade Congress to change its water management policy for Bull Shoals Lake and physically alter the Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams to provide additional water for their respective downstream waters.

The change in water management policy required a significant increase in the level of the Bull Shoals Lake pool, which means that much less input is required to raise the lake to a flood pool. Therefore, and due to the wet weather cycle we are experiencing, the Corps must frequently discharge large volumes of water into downstream waters to allow the lake to perform a flood control function.

This constant influx of cold water has significant repercussions far downstream, towards Clarendon and downstream.

A reader from Biscoe wrote: “My family has farmed in the lower bottoms of the White River, where the Cache merges with the White, for 3 generations. I know the rise and fall of the river as well as anyone. I am now 60 years old. old man and I am witnessing drastic man-made changes that have apparently escaped everyone’s attention except those of us affected by them.

“Obviously there are occasional floods that cause problems,” the reader continued. “However, a quick search of geologic records for river levels will show that the Lower White River has exceeded flood level more than 50% of the time in the past 36 months! This is unheard of !! Rice (a staple food for ducks on the flyway) has been planted for years in much of the Lower White Delta. Cropland that has been cultivated for generations, providing plentiful food to wildlife, have gone unused for the last few years. To demonstrate this catastrophic change, one need only look at the woods and wildlife, as it is exactly as one would see in Bayou Meto. fauna, if it only lives on earth (rabbits) it is now non-existent.

“This area is DESTROYED by keeping the White River as it is today within 2-3 feet of the inundation, then any precipitation of 2 inches or more causes it to re-flood again. The average level over five July 4th on White River at Clarendon is 25 feet. Flood is 26. That’s not fair. “

A well-accredited source corroborated the observations of our correspondent. He said the degree of timber damage in the lower White River exceeds that in the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area.

The Corps is irreproachable for damages resulting from a water management policy mandated by Congress.

In contrast, the Corps was held liable for damages resulting from a deviation from the Black River policy.

There doesn’t seem to be a cure.

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