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Floods Present New Challenges for Watershed Clean-Up

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May 11, 2011 by wcobserver

By Susan McCarthy

COUNTY- Volunteers for this weekend’s river clean-up may have their work cut out for them after recent floods carried everything from grills, fencing, culverts, asphalt and storage sheds down the West Fork of the White River.

The West Fork Watershed Alliance in conjunction with a number of environmentally focused agencies will host the sixth annual White River clean-up on Saturday, May 14 and organizers expect the work will present more challenges than usual.

Mayor Frances Hime, who helped organize the first watershed clean-up in 2005 said she expects to find much of the river’s debris embedded in mud, making it heavier to remove from the river and even more difficult to recycle.

“I think this year we are more than likely recover quite a few large items…farm equipment, furniture, storage sheds and household items,” she said.

The West Fork of the White River is one of the water sources flowing into Beaver Lake, which provides drinking water to the area.  Hime said they will have teams stationed along the river from Greenland to Winslow including Baptist Ford, Tilly Willy Bridge, Dye Creek Road, Woolsey Bridge, Brentwood Mountain Road and the Winslow Ballpark.

The West Fork of the White River was placed on a list of impaired rivers in 1998 by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, according to Sandy Formica, Executive Director of the Watershed Conservation Resource Center. She said excessive turbidity from silt and sediment has clouded the river and has had a negative impact on its aquatic life.

Formica’s group will give a tour of the Brentwood Stream Restoration Project that was completed in 2009 along 1,800 feet of the river near Brentwood Cemetery.   Formica says the project is a great example of how restoration can significantly reduce erosion and improve water quality.

“It met its objective of protecting the cemetery and other landowner’s property,” said Formica of how that portion of the river fared during recent heavy rains and flooding.  “That site would be devastated today without that project.”

Registration for the clean-up will be held at Riverside Park in West Fork May 14 from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. and the clean-up will last until 11 am.  Hime said a free lunch will be served at 11 a.m.  About 60 volunteers turned out last year to help including the West Fork STAR Club and local scout groups.

A cardboard boat race will also be held that day at noon and lunch will be available for entering teams at 11 a.m. as well. Teams in three categories will compete for cash prizes up to $200 in manned boats made from cardboard.  Cash prizes will be awarded over five categories with a top prize of $200.  There is even a $100 cash prize for the most dramatic sinking. This is the first year for the cardboard boat race; rules and registration forms are available at West Fork City Hall, the West Fork Renewable Resource Center, Arvest , Bank of Fayetteville and the West Fork Municipal Library.

Hime said she looks forward to seeing the entries and hopes the cardboard boat race will become an annual event.

The watershed clean-up is coordinated by the West Fork Watershed Alliance, a non-profit​ organization, but sponsored and supported by many of the region’s environmental groups including the Watershed Conservation Resource Center, Washington County Environmental Affairs, Arkansas Earth Day Foundation, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, and the Arkansas Stream Team.

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