The Watershed Conservation Resource Center (WCRC) has received more than $8.8 million to improve and protect water quality in the West Fork of the White River Watershed.
The West Fork of the White River is a major tributary that flows to the White River which forms Beaver Lake, the primary drinking water source for one in seven Arkansans.
The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) selected the WCRC’s “West Fork White River Watershed Initiative” project to receive $4.3 million in federal dollars to conduct river restoration and implement other best management practices (BMPs) on agricultural lands through their Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), an initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
An array of partners joined the WCRC to support this effort, and partners’ contributions total over $4.5 million dollars in cash and in-kind matching funds.
The “West Fork White River Watershed Initiative” will help ensure good quality water flows in the river and enhance the source of drinking water for Northwest Arkansas. The region is growing at about 1,000 people per month and in 2015 exceeded the half a million mark, according to the Northwest Arkansas Council.
The WCRC will be responsible for river assessment and restoration work and will be the central organization managing funds and implementation. The Beaver Watershed Alliance will work closely with landowners who want to implement BMPs on their agricultural lands.
Other outcomes of the project will include an environmental assessment of the West Fork Watershed; up to 21,000 feet of riparian vegetation restoration; the creation of 150 conservation and forest management plans; the implementation of up to 300 BMPs on area farms; and the creation of five “perpetual” conservation easements.
“These project outcomes are consistent with the goals of the 2012 Beaver Lake Watershed Protection Strategy and are within the highest priority watershed we have,” said Dr. Robert Morgan, manager of environmental quality for Beaver Water District (BWD). BWD supplies drinking water to the four major cities in NW Arkansas. Those cities resell the water to their customers.