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story.lead_photo.caption The Army Corps of Engineers will hold meetings regarding its review of the Beaver Lake shoreline plan. - Photo by Flip Putthoff

The shoreline plan that dictates dock requirements, paths and mowing permits for Beaver Lake is up for review in a series of meetings scheduled this week in Northwest Arkansas.

The meetings are 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, at Hilton Garden Inn, 1325 N. Palak Drive in Fayetteville; Wednesday, 4-7 p.m., Best Western Inn of the Ozarks Conference Center, 207 W. Van Buren, Eureka Springs; and Thursday, 4-7 p.m., Four Points by Sheraton, 211 S.E. Walton Blvd., Bentonville.

Meetings in March 2015 kicked off the process as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to update the lake's 1976 master plan. Hundreds of public comments rolled in. By late fall, it was apparent to the team redrawing the master plan that the shoreline zones would have to be redrawn at the same time as the overall plan, said Dana Coburn, planning and environmental chief for the Corps' Little Rock District.

"We had a lot of folks point out to us, 'My boat dock is in an environmentally sensitive area.' We got that," Coburn said.

Docks on the ground are not going away, but the land will have to be zoned low-density instead of environmentally sensitive, Coburn said. There are about 1,800 docks on Beaver Lake, some private and some with several slips for community use.

There is no target ratio between high-density recreation and wildlife management lands or low-density recreation and environmentally sensitive areas, Coburn said.

She said she hopes to hear from people living in low-density areas who want their land to be rezoned so they would be ineligible for a dock permit, but instead be surrounded by trees.

"At some point in time, we've got to balance those out," she said.

About 29 percent of the comments from last year's session asked that the lake remain unchanged, according to a summary provided by the Corps. Many comments asked the Corps to both keep the lake pristine and add docks, sometimes at specific locations.

Larry Gordon of Kansas City, Mo., owns property in the Indian Point development. It was one of the first developments in the area, with houses going up in 1967 or 1968, just when the lake was starting to fill, Gordon said.

Homeowners in Indian Point petitioned together last year for more residential docks. The 84-home development wants 1,300 feet of shoreline designated for three or four community docks so they can get out on the water, Gordon said.

A nearby boat ramp is crowded on summer weekends with people who live on the north end of the lake but don't have docks, Gordon said.

The desire to get onto the lake makes the older single-owned dock permit more valuable than the dock itself.

"All of the spots are full," Gordon said.

Dock availability can affect property values, he said. There are three or four empty houses nearby that Gordon believes would be remodeled if they got a dock.

"I'm all for the pristine lake," Gordon said.

Gordon frequents other lakes, but Beaver Lake is the most natural, he said. A restaurant, accessible by boat but with lakeside views, would be a great addition, he said.

"There's just nowhere to go. If you're on the lake and you want some lunch, you better have brought it with you," he said.

Adding docks is just one piece of the puzzle in the overall health of a lake that is a drinking-water source for most of Northwest Arkansas as well asa recreation center, Coburn said.

Other government agencies and area groups weighed in during last year's comment period -- some on habitat, some on water quality.

The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission asked that glade habitat be considered in selecting environmentally sensitive areas.

Madison County Regional Water requested that the Pine Top Recreation Area -- planned in 1976 but never constructed -- be rezoned because it is close to the water intake.

Beaver Water District asked that docks not be placed next to its water intake and that the buoys required by the Arkansas Department of Health be included in the master plan.

Plans for Beaver Lake are a balancing act because the lake is a multiuse reservoir, said Bill HagenBurger, plant engineer for Beaver Water District.

"There's water reservoirs around the country that don't allow any activity at all," HagenBurger said.

A water surface use plan would address buoy placement on the lake, Coburn said. It would set up no-wake zones, fish or wildlife sanctuaries to protect breeding grounds, open water, and prohibited space like those around water intakes or by the dam.

The Corps hasn't decided yet whether there will be a water plan. However, when the weather warms and the lake gets busy, the Corps will conduct a boat count. A count near marinas and parks will estimate how many boats are on the lake at one time, and the water surface will be zoned according to how busy it is. The study will not account for boat size, just the number of watercraft.

"If you can haul it and launch it, we can't say no," Coburn said.

The shoreline plan will affect permits for paths, boat docks, size of dock stalls, number of stalls allowed per dock, swim platforms and mowing permits. There is the question of requiring solar-powered lighting on docks because electrical lines installed near water pose a hazard. If that is changed, it will be phased in, she said.

The Corps is also evaluating whether surveys should be required before a property is sold to prevent encroachment issues.

Because shore issues are tied to the lake's use changing, the master plan will change the shoreline plan, Coburn said. The two plans will be completed together, probably by the summer of 2017. A moratorium on new docks and dock improvements is in place until the plan is complete. If the Corps had done the plans back-to-back it could have been 2018 before they were finished, Coburn said.

All the comments will be taken into consideration, Coburn said.

"That is our job, to take a look at the big picture," she said.

Comments about the plan may also be submitted by mail but must be postmarked by April 8. They should be sent to Planning Branch, Planning and Environmental, USACE, Little Rock District, P.O. Box 867, Little Rock, AR 72203.


Metro on 03/14/2016

Print Headline: Corps seeks public help to redo Beaver Lake plan

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