LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioners gave the go-ahead April 23 to use $1,000,000 from AGFC coffers to begin work on repairing the spillway at Lake Elmdale in Northwest Arkansas.
Once completed, the agency will be eligible for reimbursement of approximately half of the project costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency since the initial damage resulted from significant flooding in 2018. The project is a priority in order to repair an erosion problem on the spillway, according to Kevin Mullen, AGFC chief of operations.
The dam at Lake Elmdale is sound, Mullen said. “There is nothing wrong with the integrity of the dam. The problem is just erosion on the downstream side of the dam. It started with a lot of the flooding they’ve been having. We wanted to get in front of this before it becomes something worse.”
AGFC Director Pat Fitts saw the project as a priority and put it before the commission last month so it could move forward quickly.
“Hopefully we’ll have construction going within 60 days,” Mullen said. “With COVID-19 and other revenue constraints now, we’re really having to prioritize what we’re moving forward on as far as high-revenue projects.”
ETC Engineers and Architects Inc., based in Little Rock, is the environmental engineer for the project.
The engineering company, Mullen said, found that with the increase in residential units, a new school and regular rainfall run-off around Lake Elmdale, the run-off that reaches the lake is at a maximum level and is what caused the scouring of the spillway. In the 1990s, the area around Lake Elmdale was forested and agricultural land. There have been at least three major floods at Elmdale since 2011 that coincided with these changes in landscape.
“There is no real ground saturation from rainfall,” Mullen noted. “All of it goes straight into the lake. There is nothing you can do about that. That’s just one of those things that came with changes and growth and private development.”
To show how bad the spillway scouring had become, staff convened at the site including the AGFC’s directorate, operations and fisheries staff.
“It’s hard to imagine the scouring that has happened, and I’m glad we were able to get all eyes there to see it,” Mullen said. “It will not shut the lake down. All the work is outside of the spillway, so there is no impact on the lake at all.”
Jon Stein, AGFC district fisheries supervisor in Rogers, said Lake Elmdale has a good population of largemouth bass, with huge numbers of smaller fish that need some harvest.
“We caught 400 largemouth bass per hour of electrofishing and most were under 12 inches, Stein said. “Anglers can keep 10 largemouth bass per day, and the lake needs some of those small bass removed to help growth rates. Lake Elmdale also has good populations of big redear and bluegill sunfish and fishing is good for these larger fish right now.”