Quorum Court to decide who runs Bono Lake once it's complete

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – The question of who will run the Bono Lake when it actually opens is only now being addressed.

During its meeting Monday, the Craighead County Quorum Court discussed the need to reach an agreement with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and the City of Bono about the overall management of the project.

For the past six years, it's been unclear who would exactly run the lake upon its completion, according to Tony Thomas.

"It's not a matter of trying to understand why things happen, but it's a matter of trying to correct those so that this lake can be enjoyed by all of the citizens in Craighead County and beyond that as well," said Thomas, the county judge's assistant.

This latest obstacle came as a surprise to Thomas and other county officials because crews are finishing up their work on the dam.

"From the beginning, we have been working on this project in regards to completion of the dam," Thomas said. "Once we saw that threshold about to be met, we started looking for the agreement that would determine who would manage this project."

The officials, however, learned there was never an agreement. Thomas says it appears the county and AGFC only discussed, never wrote down who would control the lake once it opens.

"In our initial meeting with Game & Fish, my comment was it blew me away that they would allow construction of a dam on a site without this agreement in place to begin with," he said.

Thomas says the county expects to finalize its written terms with AGFC by September, or October at the latest. Those terms should address things like hours of operation and what type of crafts can go on the water. Once the quorum court approves that agreement, the county can then determine what role the City of Bono will play.

"When you start looking at who pays for lights or what police entity will respond in the event that's needed, who will patrol the park – those are the kind of questions we're addressing, and this agreement ultimately will seal that for us," Thomas said.

County officials now hope that there are no more surprises in store and that the end is in sight.

"We're looking forward to the completion of the lake project so that we can move onto some of those things we have desired to focus on that we just haven't had an opportunity to," Thomas said.

Bono Lake has been a work-in-progress since the project was announced in 2007. The project was to be completed by 2009, but several delays with soil samples and building the dam pushed to the project years past that date.

In April 2013, the county had to hire another contractor and Geotech engineer to help move the project along, but at a cost. The project was already slated to cost $4 million, and in April the county had to appropriate another $475,000 to see that the project gets finished.

Thomas says as of Monday, construction crews are a week ahead of schedule completing the dam.

He says it should be finished soon, but would not give a specific date. Once the dam is fully built, the lake can then begin filling up naturally with water.

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