‘Stream credits’ could help make Crooked Creek restoration in Harrison, Ark. a reality

Published: May. 2, 2022 at 5:51 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Harrison’s Crooked Creek restoration project could receive funding assistance due to ‘stream credits’ from the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT).

Stream credits are an ecological term that refers to funding allocated by ARDOT for projects they do over waterways that can later be used for future projects in the vicinity concerning the environmental impact on waterways.

“Whenever we do a highway project, and we affect wetlands in an area, we’re required to do mitigation to replace those wetlands, as they’re affected by our road construction,” explained Steve Lawrence, ARDOT District 9 engineer. “That’s where the credits come in to facilitate that mitigation.

The city formed Lake Harrison by building a low water dam over 30 years ago now. The City of Harrison, in collaboration with ARDOT and Arkansas Game and Fish, has been working on a proposal that would remove the dam and restore the lake to a free-flowing creek. The project comes with a price tag of $2.2 million.

Anytime Harrison receives excessive rainfall, flash flooding becomes a significant concern. The folks at KHOZ know that as well as anyone.

”We’ve come really close a couple of times: a few weeks ago, we almost had (severe flooding) happen because the low water bridge floods, and it just backs up to the road right at our drive,” explained on-air personality Coleman Taylor of KHOZ. “We sit so far down in a hole down in here anyway, and we’re right on the bank of Dry Jordan, and it fills up.”

The Dry Jordan flows into Crooked Creek, where just a month ago, the Harrison Fire Department successfully rescued two people just a few miles upstream from Lake Harrison.

”Any expert you talk to says they’re just drowning machines, is what they call them,” said Taylor. “We’ve never had that happen, thankfully, but you have never known when some kids are going to try and cross it when water is going over it.”

Nobody is going to be opposed to increasing safety, so discussion has shifted to funding. ARDOT comes in with the stream credits to help pay for the Crooked Creek Restoration.

”Doing this work with the city on Lake Harrison, we will receive credits that can be used in the future on other Highway projects,” said Lawrence. “So that way, when we do other tasks that affect wetlands, these credits can be counted as the mitigation.

The city is hopeful of taking this route of funding, but either way says that the dam removal will be more cost-efficient than the current maintenance on Lake Harrison.

“There’s a cost of maintaining the lake that runs about $100,000/year,” said Mayor Jerry Jackson. “We have to drain it every 3-4 years and clean it out, so that’s going to be a big savings.”

ARDOT will begin work on the Lake Harrison Bridge in April of 2023. If approved, the removal of the Lake Harrison Dam and creek restoration would likely follow.

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