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A Northwest Arkansas conservation group will use almost $9 million to improve and protect the area's water quality over the next five years.

The $8.8 million contribution to the Watershed Conservation Resource Center's West Fork White River Watershed Initiative consists of federal money and partnership donations from organizations and cities across Northwest Arkansas, said Robert Morgan, manager of environmental quality for the Beaver Water District.

Other outcomes

Other anticipated outcomes of the Watershed Conservation Resource Center’s West Fork White River Watershed Initiative include an environmental assessment of the West Fork Watershed, up to 21,000 feet of riparian vegetation restoration, creation of 150 conservation and forest management plans, implementation of up to 300 agricultural best management plans on area farms and the creation of five “perpetual” conservation easements.

Source: Beaver Water District

Contributing partners

The $4.5 million in initiative partner contributions were made by the following organizations and cities: Watershed Conservation Resource Center, Beaver Water District, Beaver Watershed Alliance, Walton Family Foundation, Natural Resource Conservation Service state and county offices, Washington County Conservation District, Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, City of West Fork, City of Fayetteville, Arkansas Farm Bureau, Arkansas Forestry Commission, Arkansas Natural Resource Commission, Ozarks Water Watch and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.

Source: Beaver Water District

The watershed initiative aims to help ensure good quality water flows and enhance the West Fork of the White River watershed and the Beaver Lake watershed. The Beaver Lake watershed is the source of drinking water in Northwest Arkansas, said Sandi Formica, executive director of the resource center.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service selected the watershed initiative to receive $4.3 million in federal money. The money will go to river restoration and other best management practices on agricultural lands through the service's Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative, according to a news release issued by the Beaver Water District.

The resource center's proposal was one of 265 applications submitted to the Conservation Service from throughout the country and was one of 84 selected, Formica said.

The resource center is a nonprofit organization that focuses on watershed assessment, water quality monitoring and stream stabilization and restoration, according to its website.

"All of the practices that we will be implementing, which include stream restoration and agricultural best management practices, are designed to reduce sediment, phosphorous and nitrogen amounts entering into the rivers and waterways," Formica said

Too much phosphorous and nitrogen in water systems promotes algae growth. The presence of sediment can reduce water clarity, Formica said.

Funding will help restore up to 2 miles of the West Fork of the White River, from just south of West Fork to just north of the Fayetteville Municipal Airport, which is about a third of the 124-square-mile watershed, Formica said.

"This project was designed based on watershed assessment data that's been collected for over a decade, and we've established several priority sites within the (watershed)," she said. "Which sites we work on will be based on voluntary land owner participation and watershed assessment data."

A watershed is an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet such as the outflow of a reservoir, mouth of a bay or any point along a stream channel, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The restoration will improve water quality and local ecology, Formica said.

"We're going to re-establish healthy riparian areas, which are the vegetation along the stream, by incorporating native plants," Formica said. "(We are) converting pasture along the stream to forested riparian areas."

The Beaver Watershed Alliance will conduct most of the outreach to agricultural producers and landowners in the watershed, Formica said.

The initiative and its projected outcomes are part of the Beaver Lake Watershed Projection Strategy that was implemented in 2012, Morgan said.

NW News on 05/02/2016

Print Headline: Funds aim to help improve water quality

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