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BENTONVILLE -- The benefits of dam removal and stream restoration will be the topic of conversation in an inaugural event of a new series focusing on environmental topics.

The series, Ozark Environmental Conversations, will kick off at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Arvest Community Room downtown.

Event information

The inaugural Ozark Environmental Conversations event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Arvest Community Room at the intersection of North Main Street and Legion Lane in downtown Bentonville.

Source: Staff report

The Friends of Little Sugar Creek, the Sugar Creek chapter of The Ozark Society and Patagonia are sponsoring the series, which will include several conversations throughout the year, said Beth Keck, Friends of Little Sugar Creek member.

Discussing the benefits of dam removal seemed like an appropriate first topic since the city is looking at three options for the future of the Lake Bella Vista dam, Keck said.

The dam failed in 2008, and its gates have remained open since flooding in December 2015.

City officials are working with Ecological Design Group and the Watershed Resource Center to develop a master plan for the lake and surrounding park. The plan will include three possible solutions: rebuilding the dam, removing the dam or letting the stream flow past a side channel lake.

The hope is to have the plan with cost estimates for each option go before the council in May or June, David Wright, parks and recreation director, said in January.

Serena McClain, director of river restoration for American Rivers, will be the keynote speaker at Tuesday's event. American Rivers is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration and protection of rivers and assurance of clean water for people and wildlife.

McClain will discuss the ecosystem benefits and how quickly stream banks recover after a dam is removed. The fear of change and the unknown is at the base of the concerns people who oppose dam removal have, she said, speaking from her experiences around the country.

She added the history behind dams also motivate people to keep them. There are ways to commemorate and highlight that history while restoring the creek, she said.

"We've found that removing dams is the fastest, most efficient way of restoring a river," McClain said. "The reasons most dams come out are for safety and economics. It's more cost effective and sustainable. You're not putting something in a river you have to maintain, and you're eliminating the safety concerns that arise with that."

Other panelists for Tuesday's event will include Melissa Lombardi, endangered species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Darrell Bowman, director of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.

NW News on 04/16/2018

Print Headline: Conversation series to focus on environment

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