Saturday, January 24, 2009

January 25, 2009, annual meeting of FNHA features water-quality presentations

"Troubled Water: Preserving and Restoring Arkansas' Most Valuable Resource"

will be the program theme for FNHA’s annual meeting at 2:00 pm on January 25, 2009,

in the Walker meeting room of the Fayetteville Public Library.

Two leading experts on water issues in Arkansas, Martin Maner and Marty Matlock, will discuss Arkansas’ persistent water concerns and will talk with us about what they are doing and what we, as citizens, can do to protect the quality of our water and to help restore water quality where it has deteriorated.

Martin Maner is Director of Watershed Management with Central Arkansas Water, a metropolitan system which traces its history to the springs and wells of the early 1800s and which currently provides water to nearly 400,000 users. Central Arkansas Water, which is publicly owned, emphasizes a regional approach to water needs and has won numerous EPA awards for its commitment to water quality. Before becoming Director of Watershed Management for the utility, Maner was chief of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Division.

Marty Matlock is Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Arkansas and has conducted research on a variety of ecological issues. One groundbreaking project which has drawn national attention combines urban stream ecological services restoration with outdoor classrooms, greenway trails and park development. Matlock's ecological engineering group collaborates closely with the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, in the School of Architecture, as well as with city and state officials to demonstrate more natural designs for stormwater systems. Among other activities, he will be working with the Springdale water utility in 2009 on the Clear Creek stream restoration project.

Please plan to join us the afternoon of January 25, and encourage your friends and neighbors to come along. Refreshments will be served. The annual business meeting will be brief, and there will be opportunities to learn more about an essential resource on which we and all living things depend.

Barbara Elaine Boland
Green Infrastructure Planning, Project Coordinator
Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association
148 E Spring Street
Fayetteville, AR 72701
(479) 521-2801 home
(479) 387-6724 cell

"Green Infrastructure is our nation's life support system - an interconnected network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, and other natural areas; greenways, parks and other conservation lands; working farms, ranches and forests; and wilderness and other open spaces that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, sustain air and water resources and contribute to the health and quality of life for America's communities and people." USDA Forest Service, Green Infrastructure Working Group's definition of Green Infrastructure.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Red-shouldered hawk hunts from willow tree on Pinnacle Foods' wet prairie adjacent to World Peace Wetland Prairie on January 21, 2009

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of red-shouldered hawk on Pinnacle Prairie, adjacent to World Peace Wetland Prairie in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The hawk is perched in a willow tree on alert for small birds and mammals on the prairie.

World Peace Wetland Prairie and Pinnacle Prairie water flows to Beaver Lake through the Soup Branch, a small tributary of the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River.
The soil in this area allows most of the water to soak in and to be cleansed before it leaves the prairie acreage and protects the lake from siltation and other kinds of pollution.
For more information about Beaver Lake, please see the link in the list at right for the recently revived Web site of the Association for Beaver Lake Environment.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

High-rise condo land sold at auction. Land destroyed, nothing built

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

High-Rise Condo Land Sold At Auction

By Robin Mero
BENTONVILLE -- Land being developed for the high-rise condominium project Grandview Heights at Beaver Lake was sold at auction Tuesday on the steps of the Benton County Courthouse.
A judge in December ordered the sale against Beaver Lake Properties, Eliyahu Spitzer and Michael Steinberg.
Helen Hawkins and her son, Herb Hawkins, were the sole bidders at $250,000 to repurchase land that's been in their family 35 years.
New York investors Mendel Group bought their former tracts of land for $925,000, but are owed $4.8 million, according to attorney Ed McClure.
The foreclosure sale marks the end of what nearby landowners called the most ambitious construction project in Northwest Arkansas.
"Conceptually, condos at the lake are not such an outlandish idea," said Lane Gurel, one of several adjacent landowners who had sued the Benton County Planning Board, objecting to permits granted for the project. "But such a high-density project takes a lot of infrastructure, which we believed would create enormous costs for taxpayers, not developers."
New York developer E&S Development and Properties announced plans in June 2005 for seven 25-story condominium buildings on about 177 acres near Coose Hollow at Beaver Lake.
They later reduced the project to three to five 100-unit towers.
Hawkins, who sold land that would be used for a sewage plant, said developers were not to begin work until they paid in full.
"This was to be something elegant and beautiful, it looked like a big-city hotel with lots of glass," Helen Hawkins said Tuesday.
Gurel said there was never enough demand for the property, but developers wouldn't listen.
"The project was based on pre-selling of units," he said. "I was leery of developers coming in who didn't have the financing."
Some dirt and road work was completed, but work began slowing early in 2008. Hawkins said that the bank began returning checks she received for interest payments about a year ago.
"They kept coming back and offering us $100,000 off a condo; they did that three times," she said. "We had picked one that cost $750,000."
The Mendel Group filed a foreclosure action in Benton County Circuit Court in May, asking for $3.8 million in principal payments due on loans. The Hawkins filed suit seeking $2 million.
In December, Beaver Lake Properties, Spitzer and Steinberg agreed to settle the suits and pay $5.8 million.
Helen Hawkins said she considers her debt paid.
The Mendel Group is still owed several million dollars and will ask for a deficiency hearing, said McClure. He didn't know whether his clients would seek to sell or develop their property.
Developers also owe $7,882 in delinquent taxes to the Benton County Tax Collector, which must be paid first, according to the settlement agreement.
Northstar Engineering and Jones Excavation have valid liens for work done on the property, and Greenfield Capital Development has an interest, but those liens and interest are subordinate and should be foreclosed, according to the settlement agreement. Jones Excavation dug the parking garage and foundation hole, according to court documents.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Lioneld Jordan sworn in as mayor of Fayetteville, Arkansas

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of Mayor Lioneld Jordan a few minutes after being sworn in by Judge Mark Lindsay on Friday, January 2, 2009, being congratulated by admirers and supporters in the Washington County Courthouse.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Holiday a good day to violate stormwater regulations with impunity

Please click on images to ENLARGE photos from the Hill Place student-apartment development site on New Year's Day 2009.

A person who lives adjacent to a construction site has to wonder why a crew is working every day through the holidays, including Christmas and New Year's Day. Obviously, the answer is simple: The project is on a dangereously short deadline.
But, when a few guys are out on a holiday missing two or three bowl games, some suspect they may be doing something they don't want to have reported to the authorities and assume it can not happen on a holiday when all city, county, state and federal offices are closed.

The top photo shows what I could see this morning through a zoom lens from my own yard. A big trackhoe is busily digging out and piling up dirt near the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River on New Year's Day.

The second photo shows the machine from the the east along with the deep trench it is digging for a sewer line.

The third photo shows a pump bringing water out of the trench and sending it eastward downhill to the Town Branch.

The fourth photo shows the end of the plastic pipe with muddy, silt-laden water pouring into the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River in a blatant violation of water-quality regulations. This water is headed to Beaver Lake, the drinking-water reservoir for four counties in Northwest Arkansas.

Violation of silt-release permit denied by Benton-Washington Regional Public Water Authority

Water Director Disputes State Claims
By Caleb Fort

A local water authority director says he will refuse to pay a fine and take other actions outlined in a proposed order from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
The proposed consent administrative order cites several permit violations at the Benton-Washington Regional Public Water Authority's water treatment plant near Avoca, including improper discharge of sediment and changing the plant's configuration without proper notification.
Scott Borman, the authority's director, said the order contains several inaccuracies and he will refuse to sign it.
For example, the order states the authority widened three lagoons without following the proper procedures for notifying the state about physical changes to the plant. Borman said only two lagoons were affected, and they were not changed in a way that altered their performance.
The proposed order includes a $13,100 fine and would require the authority obtain permits for changes to the plant.
Borman sent a letter to the department Dec. 18 outlining his objections to the order.
Theresa Marks, the department's director, said staff members will meet with Borman to discuss his disagreement with the order.
"We do stand by the fact that we feel like violations have taken place," she said.
She declined to address specific elements of Borman's letter.
Borman said he will try to meet with department officials in January.
The department's investigation began after a dispute between the authority and Larry Mills, a cattle farmer who owns land at 15011 Woods Lodge Road, west of the treatment plant.
Mills is a board member of Benton County Water District 1.
Walter Kreeger and Wayne Allen, who represent the district on the authority's board of directors, have butted heads with Borman in the past, but Mills said his board position has no relevance to his dispute with the authority.
Mills said he built two ponds downstream from the plant several years ago to catch the plant's discharge for his cattle.
Sediment in the discharged water gradually turned one pond into "a sludge pit," he said.
Mills said he complained several times about the plant's dirty discharge, but his pond kept filling up. He said he asked the authority to fix the pond, to no avail. Finally, he said, he complained to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, which performed inspections on Oct. 9, 2007, and May 7, 2008.
The proposed order is based on those inspections.
Borman said the plant's permit allows it to discharge about 30,000 pounds of sediment per year. Because Mills built the ponds to capture the plant's discharge, he should have been aware of potential for sediment buildup, Borman said.
Alleged Permit Violations
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued a proposed administrative order to the Benton-Washington Regional Public Water Authority based on two inspections the department says revealed permit violations. Authority Director Scott Borman disputes several of the violation.
• ADEQ: The authority widened three lagoons without proper approval from the state, violating the authority's treatment plant permit.
Borman: The authority only worked on two lagoons as part of routine maintenance. The work did not change the lagoon's operation.
• ADEQ: The authority discharged sediment or sludge into the receiving stream.
Borman: The authority's permit allows some sediment discharge, and the authority has stayed within the permit limit. Removing the sediment from Larry Mills' pond adjacent to the treatment plant could put the authority in a tricky legal position if the pond was not constructed with the proper permit.
• ADEQ: There was improper storage of sludge or sediment from the plant's lagoons.
Borman: The material does not pose any environmental hazard and was stored safely.
• ADEQ: The authority did not properly record flows.
Borman: The authority was responsible for this violation and took actions to correct it.
Source: Staff Report