AGFC public meetings to focus on cleaning ice-damage debris

PARAGOULD, AR (AGFC) - The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hold two public meetings focused on ice storm clean-up activities on several wildlife management areas in northeast Arkansas.

*6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8 in the Black River Technical College's Randolph County Development Center auditorium (1410 Highway 304 East) in Pocahontas.

*6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10 in the Paragould Community Center (3403 Linwood Drive) in Paragould.

Clean-up on Big Lake, Dave Donaldson Black River and St. Francis Sunken Lands WMAs may affect access to waterfowl blinds and openings and this year's flooding schedule on those WMAs.

The January 2009 ice storm crippled hundreds of municipalities and rendered hundreds of miles of highways impassable. It also cut off public access to many hunting areas and cluttered boat lanes on some popular waterfowl areas. Ice damage extended through 14 WMAs, with areas in northeast Arkansas taking the brunt of the storm's damage.

Immediately after the storm passed, the AGFC began to assess the damage on its management areas and develop a plan to restore access and public facilities. Funding assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be used to clear the debris and rebuild facilities. A kick-off meeting with FEMA was conducted Feb. 25, 2009, and the AGFC has been working diligently since that date to meet all regulatory and administrative requirements to be eligible for FEMA assistance.

Intensive on-the-ground work should begin on Big Lake, Dave Donaldson Black River and St. Francis Sunken Lands WMAs in mid-September. The work may affect some flooding schedules and blind access while underway.

Other impacted WMAs will be cleared of debris, and the AGFC expects to conduct more public meetings as bids are received and contracts are signed in the next several weeks.