Sunday, November 30, 2008

Corps of Engineers ignores needs of migrating waterfowl

Once again, the U.S. Corps of Engineers is planning to open the gates to allow water to drain from Beaver Lake just as the migration of waterfowl from the north occurs.
The conflict among the official purposes of the reservoir and the needs of fish and wildlife often becomes obvious. I wrote about this problem as far back as the early 1970s. The cold front spitting snow on northwest Arkansas today reminds us that duck season is here and that only a few days of good hunting on Beaver Lake are likely before the habitat becomes unattractive for waterfowl to pause to feed. Not many people actually hunt ducks on Beaver, of course, but a lot of waterfowl use the lake when conditions are right and it can be helpful to the birds in their migration.
Spawning fish need high water up in the brush and grass along the shoreline in spring and early fall. Waterfowl need high water up in the brush and grass and live trees along the shoreline in fall and winter. Rain, of course, is unpredictable. The power companies need plenty of water during times when the need for electricity is high. Recreational boaters and such probably want a stable water level that allows them never to have to slow down for logs or hilltops in the White River valley to be too near the surface for safety.
Flood-control problems would require having the lake maintained at as low a level as possible at all times.
Boat-dock owners want the lake perfectly stable.
For fish and wildlife, the water level needs to be lowered during the growing season to keep vegetation alive. Shoreline trees and brush survive winter, spring flooding but die during years when high-water lasts through the growing season.
These and some related problems exist everywhere a dam stands across a river.
And cities continue to grow and demand that more rivers and creeks be dammed to provide water.
Arkansas is fortunate that a few streams such as the Buffalo River have been protected from dams. If population growth doesn't stop, the push to destroy the most productive farm land and wildlife acreage will continue.

Corps ready at last to pull the plug on bulging Beaver Lake
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2008

GARFIELD — Over the next two weeks, the water level of Beaver Lake is projected to drop 5 feet, and Wayne Launderville will spend those days easing 40 boat docks out farther into the lake to make sure they don’t become grounded.
Launderville normally checks the docks weekly, but the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to lower the lake to 1, 120 feet by Dec. 13. Such a rapid drop could leave docks on dry ground if they aren’t monitored daily and moved often.
“You have to watch it every day, sometimes twice a day,” said Don Andreasen, owner of Beaver Fever Striper Guide Service in Garfield. “If your dock’s on dry ground, it’s a lot of work to get it back in the water. You’d have to wait until the water comes back up. They ain’t light.”
Boats moored to the docks also can become grounded when the lake level drops.
On Monday, the Corps of Engineers will begin releasing additional water through the turbines at Beaver Dam. The lake has been higher than usual since it was swollen by spring rains. The Corps said conditions at Table Rock and Bull Shoals lakes, which are downstream from Beaver Lake on the White River water system, now can allow the floodwaters being stored in Beaver Lake to be released.
At this time last year, the water level at Beaver Lake was 1, 113 feet — 12 feet lower than its current level of about 1, 125. On April 1, the lake crested at 1, 130 feet.
Water will be released 18 hours a day beginning Monday, according to the Corps. If heavy rains fall during the next two weeks, the release of water could be extended. From about Dec. 10-13, the release will be cut back to 12 hours a day until the lake reaches the top of the conservation pool, which is 1, 120. 4 feet.
Bob and Joyce Bauer, owners of Lost Bridge Marina, said it takes eight hours to push the eight docks at the marina out farther into the lake, where they’ll be safe when the lake level drops. During a prolonged drop in the lake level, like the one scheduled for early December, Bob Bauer said he will move each dock a few feet every other day.
“We just have to keep moving them out,” Joyce Bauer said. “It can be an all-day job. You have to continuously do a little bit at a time.”
The large commercial docks at Lost Bridge Marina have eight to 16 winches per dock so they can be cranked out farther into the lake, then retrieved when the lake level rises. The marina has five docks that are 300 feet long each. About 200 boats can be stored at Lost Bridge Marina. Commercial-dock owners are used to the routine of moving them in and out.
“Private-dock owners need to make sure they’re out as far as they can go so they don’t end up on the ground,” Bob Bauer said.
Launderville said he’s one of several people who works moving docks along Beaver Lake.
“This is my main job,” he said. “I take care of docks.”
Originally from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Launderville moved to Rogers in 1999. His services allow dock owners to rest without having to worry about fluctuations in the level of Beaver Lake. Because the Ozark hills allow much rainwater to drain into the lake, a 1-inch rain can raise the level by a foot, Launderville said.
Launderville said a few of his clients live in Northwest Arkansas and just don’t want the hassle of constantly moving their docks, but 95 percent of them live outside the area, including one in Alaska. In his spare time, Launderville also helped Lost Bridge Village launch a recycling business.
“I’ve never advertised,” he said. “I’ve got too many [docks to maintain ]. I can’t advertise.”
Launderville said he tries to move the docks a small distance at a time — about 3 feet — to avoid big problems later on. Some private docks have cranks and winches, but many require him to pry them out of the mud with a board and physically push them farther into the lake. Launderville makes his rounds by boat to check on the docks.
“You’ve got to go on calm days,” he said while checking a double-slip dock at Horn Cove. “You’ve got to pick your time. You can’t go out when there are whitecaps out here.”
Andreasen said that the lake level began dropping slightly a few days before Thanksgiving and that he’s been pushing his dock out about a foot a day since about Tuesday.
“Always make sure your electrical line has enough slack when you push your dock out,” he said.
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