FOUKE — Deryl Jones would like a new reservoir to be built in the Sulphur River Wildlife Management Area. He also believes there should be a welcome center in town on Interstate 49.
A couple of state agencies disagree. Jones, chairman of the Miller County Rural Development Authority, based in Fouke, said his group will persist.
The reservoir would be one of several improvements proposed for the WMA, in the southwest corner of the state’s most southwestern county. The Sulphur River flows out of Wright Patman Lake in Texas, and flows into the Red River in Miller County just north of the Louisiana state line.
A 200-acre reservoir, Jones said, would provide a reliable drinking water source for south Miller County, plus recreational activities.
Rick Chastain, an assistant deputy director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, sees obstacles.
The WMA, he said, was bought with federal funds. To take the land out of its intended purpose would require a replacement of land of similar or equal value from an economic and wildlife standpoint. And that’s not even considering that an environmental impact statement would be required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
It would be a “tremendously laborious process,” Chastain said. “From our perspective, it’s not feasible to do this on this management area.”
Clarice Allen, a Texarkana lawyer writing on behalf of the city of Fouke, in 2014 asked the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to begin a feasibility study to determine the best site in Fouke for a welcome center. Fouke is only 15 miles from the Louisiana state line on I-49, she wrote, is the first city northbound, and has the utilities and other necessary services readily available.
Fouke also has property owners willing to sell or dedicate land for the welcome center, Allen wrote.
No thanks, the Highway Department responded.
The department, in partnership with the state Department of Parks and Tourism, already has two welcome centers in the Texarkana area, agency director Scott Bennett wrote to Allen.
The creation of a third welcome center would duplicate services already available at those two welcome centers, Bennett wrote, adding that the cost of a third would be “beyond the capabilities of either agency.”