JONESBORO – The first of three public meetings seeking input into a study of hydrology and water needs associated with the upper White River Basin will take place from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 11, at the Jacksonport State Park Visitor Center in Newport. Future meetings will be held at Mountain Home and Branson, Mo.
The goal of these public meetings are to gain stakeholder input that will help develop a detailed basin-wide analysis that examines all uses of water in the basin and how well the system provides resources to meet those needs.
“This is the first of three phases of our study” according to Dr. Yeonsang Hwang, interim associate dean and associate professor of civil engineering at A-State.
Arkansas State University initiated this study with the Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in September 2018.
Phase 1, which is underway, involves gathering stakeholder input pertaining to current water resource needs. In phase 2, input gathered from phase 1 will be used to develop a detailed scope of work for an in-depth analysis of the water uses in the basin and how those uses are being met by current operational procedures.
Areas to be addressed in this interdisciplinary study may include the following: flood control, economics, hydropower generation, recreation, water supply, environmental flows and agricultural interests, among others.
Exact scope and other study details are being developed. They will be dependent on available funding sources and feedback solicited in phase 1. Finally, phase 3 includes initiating the actual study and performing the interpretive analyses.
Jaysson Funkhouser, program manager with the Little Rock District, USACE, leads this study for the Corps and led the efforts to secure a research partnership with a university.
“We are pleased to have A-State leading this study,” says Funkhouser. “The White River Basin encompasses large portions of Mo. and Ark. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns and operates six dams in the basin and the dams are operated as a system to reduce frequency and severity of floods, provide water supply, generate hydroelectric power and provide minimum environmental flows downstream of Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes.”
“A study of this complexity requires that USACE partner with a non-partial academic institution to lead and produce independent research on the basin," Funkhouser stated.
“The big river study will create significant research opportunities for our faculty and students concerning an issue that touches the lives of so many Arkansans. The study will take several years and will allow the faculty and students to make valuable contributions towards a sustainable future for Arkansans and the citizens of the Delta region in particular,” says Dr. Abhijit Bhattacharyya, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at A-State.
In addition to the public meetings, individual stakeholder meetings will be scheduled at each location, according to Funkhouser. “We want to make sure that we get input from all of our stakeholders. In this way, we should have the best information available to us to design a study that will address the stakeholders’ needs”.
For more information on the study, including the other meetings, a web page has been created at https://whiteriverbasinstudy.com. The meeting in Mountain Home will be Monday, Sept. 30, and the meeting in Mo. will be Tuesday, Oct. 29.
Researchers are also collecting public comments on the White River Basin Study through this web site.
“The White River is such an important resource for so many in Arkansas and Missouri," says Dr. Hwang. "We are hoping to hear from a diverse representation of stakeholders during phase 1 of our study.”
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