Debate Heats Up Over Deepening White River - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Little Rock, AR

Debate Heats Up Over Deepening White River

JULY 27, 2005 - Posted at 7:50 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Environmental groups have whistled into the wind for years trying to stop the Corps of Engineers from tapping the White River for farm irrigation.

But their concerns about a separate navigation project on that river are definitely being heeded.

The Arkansas Wildlife Federation had a strong ally at its side yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as the public challenged the Corps to justify a project that simply isn't getting off the ground.  After describing possible parks and recreation projects in towns along the White River, Corps engineer James Lloyd said it would be at least three years before a cost-benefit analysis could be finished.

Funding is also a problem.  The Corps has already spent two to three million dollars and nine years studying the project, but the Congress only approved $150,000 for its last year and the House has given it no money for the coming year's budget.

The proposed $35 million navigation project would deepen the White River channel to nine feet from Arkansas Post to Newport and keep it open 95 percent of the time, rather than a varying depth channel that is 50-to-60 percent reliable.  Harvey Joe Sanner, a farmer and director of the White River Coalition, said it would mean millions of dollars in river-borne commerce for the area, open up river tourism and reduce dredging in the river by half, using a series of dykes.

But Joe Krystofik, a biologist with the Fish & Wildlife Service, says the White River and Cache River national wildlife refuges are against the dykes and the Corps would end up having to increase dredging in those areas.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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