LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) — Governor Asa Hutchinson joined officials with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Nature Conservancy as they presented a check for $250,000 to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission's Rural Services Division. The funds will be used by counties across Arkansas to create a better unpaved county road system, reducing the negative environmental impact of eroding unpaved roads on priority water resources in the state. The program, to be administered by AEDC's Rural Services Division, focuses on best management practices that reduce the impact of sediment and road runoff to streams, rivers and drinking water supplies while reducing long-term unpaved county road maintenance costs.
The Nature Conservancy is providing $100,000 toward the program and the AGFC is providing $150,000.
"The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is proud and excited to be a partner in this program," said AGFC Assistant Deputy Director Ricky Chastain. "This program meshes well with the agency's mission to conserve Arkansas's fish and wildlife and their habitats. This program represents a practical, cost-effective solution to target specific stretches of unpaved roads that are having negative impacts on water quality and our most sensitive aquatic species. High-quality waters produce high-quality fishing and other water-related recreational opportunities for current and future citizens of Arkansas to enjoy."
Applicants may apply for the full or partial costs of materials, equipment and labor. Funds are capped at $75,000 per project.
"We just want to give a big thank you to the governor and all of the partners for developing the Arkansas unpaved roads program," said Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy. "Eroding unpaved roads can be costly to counties and unpleasant to the driving public. When they channel rainfall runoff, erosion increases sediment to our streams, rivers and lakes. This becomes a maintenance issue not only for the county road crews but for downstream drinking water treatment facilities as well. By building and maintaining better unpaved roads, counties could see cost savings in many areas. This funding will support these projects and help showcase this program and its benefits in 2016."
While counties are considered the primary applicants for funding, other unincorporated areas with public, unpaved roads also can apply as long as that area has the resources to implement and manage the program grant.
Eligible projects must focus on both unpaved road improvements and sediment reduction. Only projects that provide some form of environmental benefit will be considered. Priority consideration will be given to the following:
• A water body containing an aquatic species listed as threatened, endangered or a candidate species by the Federal Government;
• A water body that has been determined to be impaired as a result of turbidity or sediment;
• A water body used as a drinking source for people;
• A water body used as an interstate waterway;
• A water body the AGFC determines to contain a species of greatest conservation need;
• A water body important to agricultural or pasture land use, or
• A water body important to forestry land use. For an application or more information on the program, visitwww.RuralServices.Arkansas.gov