Walton Family Foundation financially assists Bentonville for Bella Vista Lake plan

Posted: October 25, 2017 at 1 a.m.

John Finch of Rogers and his dog, Samantha, walk Tuesday across Lake Bella Vista dam. Some want the dam removed. Others want to see it repaired. Bentonville’s City Council accepted a $98,960 grant from the Walton Family Foundation on Tuesday so the city could hire Ecological Design Group for $29,250 and the Watershed Resource Conservation Center for $63,960 to study three options to develop or change the lake and surrounding grounds.

BENTONVILLE -- A four-way partnership will develop options for Bella Vista Lake Park, moving toward an answer of what the future will be for the man-made lake and failed dam.

Pedestrians walk Tuesday across a spillway section of the Lake Bella Vista dam.

Little Sugar Creek emerges Tuesday from a spillway at the Lake Bella Vista dam. Friends of Little Sugar Creek, a nonprofit organization, has advocated...

The City Council accepted a $98,960 grant from the Walton Family Foundation on Tuesday so the city could hire Ecological Design Group for $29,250 and the Watershed Resource Conservation Center for $63,960 to study three options to develop or change the lake and surrounding grounds.

Council action

The Bentonville City Council met Tuesday and approved:

• Appointing Lauren Haynes to the Public Art Advisory Committee.

• A $25,000 donation from Walmart for 430 trees for the annual tree planting blitz.

• A $791,469 reconciliation change order from Flintco for the new maintenance complex.

• Amendments to the 2012 Arkansas Fire Prevention Code volume one.

• Creating a right-of-way permit for the Street Department.

The council tabled an update to the city’s schedule of fees.

Source: Staff report

The plan will include cost estimates and potential money sources, according to David Wright, parks and recreation director.

The Conservation Center specializes in stream bank restoration and will focus its work on the channel while working with Ecological Design Group, which will focus on land uses of the park, Wright told council members.

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials declared the dam at Bella Vista Lake failed in March 2008 after it was topped during a storm. It was topped again by flooding in 2011, 2013 and December 2015. The dam gates have remained open since the last flooding.

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Little Sugar Creek feeds into the lake.

The city plans to rebuild the dam using federal and state money crumbled after the construction permit to rebuild the dam expired in March, nullifying the $2.7 million the Federal Emergency Management Agency committed to the estimated $3.5 million project.

FEMA has since pledged the money to the city again as the city sought a different permit, according to Travis Matlock, city engineering director.

All the while, the Friends of Little Sugar Creek, a nonprofit organization, has advocated for the dam to be removed and Little Sugar Creek restored.

The organization filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency to stop the dam from being rebuilt. The lawsuit was dismissed in April because of the expired construction permit.

The Play Bentonville Plan, the Parks and Recreation 10-year plan, offers three options for the lake, including rebuilding or removing the dam or letting the stream flow past a side channel lake.

City officials have met with members of Friends of Little Sugar Creek and others invested in the property a few times since the spring. All said they would consider looking at the third option, Wright said.

"Our goal of this is to create three conceptual plans for this property," he said, explaining each will have all the information for council members to make the best informed decision to chose for the park's future.

The process is expected to take nine months, he said.

Council member Stephanie Orman asked if FEMA would look at the other options to fund.

The money it set aside can only be used to repair the dam as it was before it was damaged because it's disaster relief money, Matlock said, adding the other two options would have to be paid for by other sources.

Council member Tim Robinson asked the ongoing operations and maintenance costs be included in the options.

There were a few members of the Friends of Little Sugar Creek in attendance. Member Greg Van Horn said after the meeting the plans will give people a better idea of what that area can be with the dam removed and creek restored.

"This is a step in the right direction," he said.

Mayor Bob McCaslin and the council also recognized Detective Cpl. Steve Vera for his 33 years of law enforcement service, including 17 with the Bentonville Police Department.

NW News on 10/25/2017