City leaders in Harrison consider removing dam to restore Crooked Creek

Plan would get rid of Lake Harrison
Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 5:58 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - A plan is in the works to remove a lake alongside downtown Harrison and restore Crooked Creek as a free-flowing stream.

Mayor Jerry Jackson said the Arkansas Department of Transportation offered to remove a 10-foot-tall weir, or low-head dam, that created Lake Harrison to restore Crooked Creek. It would look something like the natural state it resembled in 1961. Work will cost about $2.2 million.

“A free-flowing creek, possibly all the way through here, is just going to be amazing,” said Mayor Jackson. “When you go to any other town and see a free-flowing creek, it is the highlight of that town.”

Lake Harrison is currently a stagnate body of water, but it may soon change. The dam was originally built in the 1990′s for recreational purposes, although one would rarely see anyone using the lake except for fishing.

”Harrison has two places of interest, the courthouse lawn for its historicalness and the lake,” said Rick Schoenberger, who has been a longtime business owner in Harrison.

A project that has been revisited several times in recent years, the lake has had issues with debris, flooding, and bringing geese.

Public interest increased with recent events. In November of 2018, a couple’s car washed down into the lake, leading the lake to be drained. Searchers found their bodies almost 20 miles downstream. So safety is a point of discussion.

”Low-head dams across the country are causing drownings all the time,” said Darrell Bowman, from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “It’s a huge problem because the design is water flows across the top of it, so the more water flowing across it, the worse the re-circulating current is that can trap people.”

Other members of the community have mixed feelings about what to do with the dam.

”I’d just leave it like it is, maybe clear it out every five years,” said local James Wheatley. “It’s a nice place for people to come and fix and watch the ducks and geese out swimming. “

”Everyone says we’ll have this nice growth down there and grass come in, but here’s the thing, we’ll still have a flood come and rip everything out, and the only difference is we won’t have a nice lake sitting in the middle of it,” said Schoenberger.

City leaders held a public hearing Tuesday night. They will not make a final decision until a later city council meeting.

“There is some concern in the community about taking the weir out and removing the lake,” said city engineer Wade Phillips. “There are people who do like it. They like the appearance.”

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