Thursday, August 01, 2013
There is a lot to be proud about with the Kings River. The Madison County portion of the river is a designated Wild and Scenic Waterway. Due to its outstanding biodiversity and excellent water quality, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has recognized the Kings River as an Extraordinary Resource Water (ERW).
“Only about 16 percent of Arkansas’ total stream miles have been designated as ERWs,” said Shawna Miller, a biologist and former director of the Kings River Watershed Partnership.
While she wasn’t speaking on behalf of the partnership at the Arkansas Public Service Commission hearing in Eureka Springs July 15 on the proposed SWEPCO high voltage transmission line, Miller spoke about research and scientific studies done in the watershed and what those mean regarding the proposed power line she fears would greatly harm the Kings.
“I am extremely concerned about the construction and maintenance of this transmission line and the devastating impact it would have on the Kings River and its riparian zone,” Miller said. “Numerous state agencies, research groups, local landowners and the Kings River Watershed Partnership have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of effort to improve and protect water quality of the Kings River Watershed. This project would void those monumental efforts.”
Miller said the entire stretch of the Kings River is highly valued by surrounding landowners and recreationists for excellent fishing, boating, swimming and wildlife watching opportunities. The type of stream represented by the Kings is increasingly rare in the United States.
“The Nature Conservancy’s Ozarks Ecoregional Conservation Assessment identified the Kings River as containing a significant concentration of aquatic biodiversity,” she said. “It is one of the last undammed tributaries of the White River and hosts 30 endemic or modal species. Despite these designations and extra protections, the Kings River is currently in a fragile state.”
Evidence of that is nearly 60 miles of the Kings River are currently on the Draft 2012 Impaired Waterbodies (303 d) List, a list developed to access compliance with the Clean Water Act. The cause of impairment for these two sections of the Kings River has been found to be total dissolved solids, which are higher than state criteria. Dissolved solids may come from organic sources such as leaves, silt, plankton, and industrial waste and sewage, Miller said. Other sources come from runoff from urban areas, road salts used on streets during the winter, and fertilizers and herbicides used on lawns and farms.
“These sections of the Kings River on the Impaired Waterbodies List would be traversed by the proposed 345 kV transmission line, which would serve to further impact this already threatened river,” Miller said. “In 2004, Parsons, Inc., and University of Arkansas Ecological Engineering Group completed a report on the water quality and biological assessment of the Kings River. They found that, ‘The ecological integrity of the streams in the Kings River basin are at risk of being further degraded from altered hydrologic flow regimes, increased sedimentation, and loss of riparian vegetation. The loss of sensitive species of fish and macroinvertebrates in this system is cause for concern.”
An FTN Associates watershed assessment completed in 2005 for the Kings River watershed found that 38.54 percent of the total sediment loads for the watershed come from stream bank erosion. Presumed cause for the loss of sensitive species of fish and macroinvertebrates is sedimentation and geomorphologic alteration.
“These two factors would greatly increase as a result of this project,” Miller said. “Stream bank erosion would most certainly increase as the natural riparian zone is denuded and destroyed both during the construction and maintenance of this project.”
In the spring of 2007, the Kings River Watershed Partnership, funded by a grant from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, conducted an extensive stream channel survey of the main stem of the Kings River and its largest tributary, Osage Creek.
“We located and surveyed 137 very high to extremely eroded stream banks and 65 moderate to highly eroded stream banks,” Miller said. “The majority of the severely eroded banks were a direct result of the removal of trees and shrubs in favor of grass within the riparian zone. The use of herbicides to control vegetative growth is problematic because of its potential impact on aquatic species. However, its use is also problematic because of the resulting instability of the stream bank and increased sedimentation of the river. The negative impact of sedimentation on aquatic species has been well documented in scientific literature.
“My family owns a tourist lodging business in Eureka Springs, and like the vast majority of residents in our town, their income is intimately tied to our scenic resources. Tourists today have many choices on where to spend their travel dollars. They come to Eureka Springs in order to escape the landscape they see every day in an urban environment. Ironically, this project will reduce our ability to live and grow as a community.”
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