Land Purchased for Water Quality Benefits

On Thursday, June 15, Beaver Water District (BWD) and the Watershed Conservation Resource Center (WCRC) held a ribbon cutting and celebration to recognize the successful purchase of a Floodplain Conservation Property at 1501 S. Deadhorse Mountain Rd. The protection of 223 acres of property will help protect the quality of water in Beaver Lake for many future generations.

Back in April of 2022, the WCRC applied for a City of Fayetteville American Recovery Plan Act grant to purchase 223 acres of floodplain property along the West Fork of the White River (WFWR). The property lies within the Fayetteville city limits with nearly 2.5 miles of river frontage and at least 22 acres of critical wetlands. The dual goal of this purchase was to 1. Improve community resiliency by protecting the floodplain against future development and 2. To restore portions of the property to optimize the beneficial functions of a wetland drainage area for water quality. By protecting floodplains within the watershed, the area that drains to Beaver Lake, the City and partnering organizations can proactively assist in the preservation of our local water quality to help ensure clean drinking water for the 1 in every 5 Arkansans who drink from Beaver Lake every day.

In early November 2022, the Fayetteville City Council unanimously selected the project to receive $1.44 million towards the purchase. With such a large track of land and increased property values, acquisition of the property would not have been possible without Beaver Water District’s (BWD) matching cash contribution of $800,000 that was used towards the final purchase price of $2.19 million, along with closing costs and development of an initial landscape restoration plan. The WCRC contributed $20,000 and was responsible for the coordination of the property purchase process. The WCRC, BWD, and City of Fayetteville share ownership of the property. This unique partnership enhances the community’s ability to protect urban areas’ natural resources. The WCRC is also responsible for site management and floodplain restoration projects. WCRC Executive Director, Sandi Formica, commented “Conservation of the WFWR floodplain property is forward thinking and this effort will help protect water quality for Fayetteville and other Northwest Arkansas residents for generations, while protecting wetlands and supporting wildlife habitat in an urban setting.”

An interview with Beaver Water District’s CEO, Lane Crider, at the ribbon cutting for the Dead Horse Mountain Floodplain Conservation Property in Fayetteville.

The conservation of this unique floodplain property is a remarkable success story for clean drinking water and the community. The property will be placed in a perpetual conservation easement, so that it will continue to protect water quality and provide high value ecological functions for the benefit of current and future generations. BWD Environmental Quality Manager, Dr. James McCarty, commented “Floodplains are incredibly important to the quality of water in Beaver Lake, our region’s source of drinking water. Floodplains help to filter out sediment and nutrients from floodwaters and urban stormwater. The sediment that naturally settles out in floodplains does not have to be removed during the drinking water treatment process. Additionally, nutrients trapped in floodplains can reduce the growth of algae in the lake.” Not only does the purchase of this land help protect our drinking water, but it also plays a significant role in providing water access to the public. Plans will be developed to create a link across the acreage purchased and the existing park lands in the City of Fayetteville.

Lane Crider speaks to the crowd at the ribbon cutting for the Dead Horse Mountain Floodplain Conservation Property in Fayetteville.

The Environmental Quality Department at Beaver Water District added this victory to the list as it moves towards its five-year goals. To protect and preserve Beaver Lake as a source of drinking water, the department plans to increase conserved land from 900 acres (starting point in 2022) to 3000 acres and protect an additional 50,000 ft of stream bank within the watershed by end of year 2027. Currently there are 1975 acres in conservation and 33,000 ft of stream bank protected/restored. Continued partnerships like those involved in the Dead Horse Mountain Floodplain Conservation area will ensure that the department’s five-year goals are met.

The ribbon cutting celebration allowed for comments to be provided by many of the Northwest Arkansas conservation partners. Speakers included Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, Fayetteville City Council Member Teresa Turk, Sandi Formica with the Watershed Conservation Resource Center, Grady Spann with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, Becky Roark with the Beaver Watershed Alliance, and Lane Crider, CEO of Beaver Water District. The celebration continued after the ribbon cutting with a dinner and tour of the property.

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