Work continues on ice storm-damaged WMAs

POCAHONTAS, AR (AGFC) - Work continues on three of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife management areas that received the heaviest damage during this year's ice storm. In the first week of work by contractors, workers have completed about 40 percent of the initial contract work on Dave Donaldson Black River WMA, 40 percent on Big Lake WMA and about 50 percent of the debris removal on St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA. Barring any significant weather-related delays, the projected completion dates for the debris clean-up will be well ahead of the 45-day contract limit.

As work continues, the cost of debris removal may exceed the amounts approved for reimbursement under current FEMA project worksheets for Dave Donaldson Black River and Big Lake WMAs. The AGFC is working to provide documentation that will establish a reasonable need to exceed the current project cost and secure an approval for a project overrun request from FEMA. The AGFC will be working through the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to secure FEMA's approval of this request.

Waterfowl hunters who use the St. Francis Sunken Lands and Dave Donaldson Black River WMAs were permitted to began removing ice storm debris from the main river channels on Sept. 19. Hunters are only allowed access on the Black River and Little River channels of the Dave Donaldson Black River WMA to remove ice storm debris from the main channels until FEMA contractors are finished with debris removal in other sections of the management area.

St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA fire lane.On the St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA, sportsmen only have access to the St. Francis River channel proper, including St. Francis Lake and the borrow pits adjacent to the east and west levees of the St. Francis River floodway, to remove ice storm debris from the main channel. Hunters also are allowed to perform routine maintenance on public blinds in the St. Francis WMA and waterfowl hunting holes directly accessible from the river channel proper, the main levee borrow pits and St. Francis Lake.

Hunters do not have early access on Big Lake WMA due to the absence of a major river system. Since there is no major river system on Big Lake WMA, FEMA clean-up eligibility guidelines must be strictly adhered to. As FEMA clean-up contractors complete their work in a portion of Dave Donaldson Black River, St. Francis Sunken Lands and Big Lake WMAs, the AGFC is using its Web site ( to post information.

The Web site will inform the public when they can access designated portions of the management areas outside the initially restricted river channel areas in order to maintain existing public duck blinds, existing public waterfowl hunting holes and existing boat lanes during daylight hours only.

This week, a pre-bid meeting will be held for contractors to discuss debris removal on Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA and W.E. Brewer Scatter Creek WMA. Contractors also will be bidding on ice storm debris removal for Gulf Mountain, Harold Alexander, Jamestown, Robert Hankins Mud Creek, Shirey Bay Rainey Brake, Gene Rush, Harold Hensley Searcy County and Loafers Glory WMAs as well as the Fred Berry Conservation Center in Marion County.

Debris removal activities may be underway during some hunting seasons, but no seasons will be cancelled. As the work continues, hunters and outdoorsmen are encouraged to use caution in the areas where debris may still be on the ground or hanging from trees.