Friday, March 27, 2009

Beaver Lake Watershed Policy Group weak on true protection of watershed

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Beaver Lake Policy Group Developing Plan

By Caleb Fort
A group dedicated to creating a plan to protect Beaver Lake discussed several options at its meeting Thursday, including voluntary programs and increased regulation on developers.

The Beaver Lake Watershed Policy Advisory Group agreed to look further into a strategy revolving around voluntary land conservation plus a host of other measures to prevent sedimentation and phosphorous pollution of the lake.

The group, which met for the first time in May, is supposed to finalize a plan by midsummer.

The proposed plan would cost at least $15 million per year, paid for by property owners, farmers, developers, water suppliers and the government, according to estimates from Tetra Tech, a California environmental consulting firm that has guided the advisory group.

The conservation program would encourage conservation easements, in which a landowner agrees not to develop certain property.

The plan would also include voluntary measures such as better construction site management, pasture improvements and improvements to dirt roads.

After the group has created a recommended policy, the members will probably try to establish a regional organization to oversee implementation, said Mike Malone, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Council.

The regional organization could monitor the success of the policies and add more stringent requirements if necessary, said Trevor Clements of Tetra Tech.

Kimberly Brewer, associate director of Tetra Tech, presented four scenarios including combinations of voluntary programs and strict construction requirements around the lake.

The cheapest scenario would cost about $15 million a year, Brewer said. The most expensive would cost about $59 million a year, but would be the most effective at preventing pollution, she said.

Some group members, including Tony Miltich, who represents the Association for Beaver Lake Environment, said Beaver Lake is important enough that the group should pursue the most expensive option.

But others, including Justice of the Peace Frank Winscott, R-southeastern Benton County, said it would be difficult to convince Northwest Arkansans to go along with some of the more expensive and strict regulations.

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