Favorite
FILL OR WATERFOWL?
  • FILL OR WATERFOWL?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has expressed concerns about a proposal by a North Little Rock business to fill a 43-acre cypress-tupelo swamp on the Arkansas River just upriver from the Interstate 430 bridge, citing eagles’ nests and loss of fish and animal habitat.

Mike Mehaffy, owner of Thomco Inc. engineering and construction firm, filed what’s called a section 404 application with the U.S. Army Corps of engineers to fill the property. He wants to park heavy equipment there.

The public has until Jan. 30 to comment on the application, in which Mehaffy proposes to fill what the COE calls “mature forested wetlands” with 230,000 cubic yards of shale and clay material to bring it level with Crystal Hill Road. Mehaffy’s tract is 73 acres total.

The swamp is upstream from and similar to Rosenbaum Lake, the extensive cypress swamp visible to traffic on the I-430 bridge over the river, where a developer tried to build a marina a decade ago. That project was stopped by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which found that Arkansas had violated its own water quality standards by issuing a permit to the builder.

Mehaffy’s swamp curls behind property adjoining Rosenbaum Lake — which, coincidentally, the Thomco office is on — and turns into bottomland woods at a higher elevation. Water in the swamp was high and muddy on a recent visit; woodpeckers and jays called and darted about the cypress trees. Bur oak acorn caps 2 inches wide lay in the leaf litter under the trees in the upland area.

Mehaffy was paid $16,500 by the Corps of Engineers in 1970 for an easement on the tract as part of the construction of Murray Lock and Dam. The easement deed stipulates that he has the right to fill the tract above a certain elevation, and he has complained to the COE that the public notice did not mention that provision of the easement.

However, the COE’s regulatory office says the Clean Water Act of 1972 trumps the language in Mehaffy’s deed.

If the eagles’ nests are active, Fish and Wildlife biologist Lindsey Lewis informed Mehaffy, “there will be additional requirements for preventing take and disturbance of the eagles.” Lewis also noted that the application lacked required information on avoidance, minimization and mitigation of habitat.

Fish and Wildlife’s Tim Scott, project director, said the EPA has also already expressed concern over the application, as have private conservation groups. ECO (Ecological Conservation Organization), a Little Rock outfit, asked for a public hearing on the application, but Scott said the COE would not call a public hearing unless it needed more information to make a decision.

ECO President Rob Fisher and Vice President Dan DeVun, in a letter to the COE, wrote, “With today’s environmental crises and stresses surely the economic value of heavy equipment storage is not being weighed against the economic benefit of 43 acres of wetlands.”

Mehaffy, 71, said he was making the application now because he wanted to establish his family’s right to use the property before he got any older. He said he did not believe that filling the swamp would have any deleterious effect on wetlands downstream, including Rosenbaum. He also said filling wouldn’t cost him much because of an excess of fill dirt available in the area.

Mehaffy described himself as an environmentalist and noted that he was among the opponents to the marina project on Rosenbaum, where he’s seen ducks and other birds. He is a duck hunter and a member of state and national conservation groups.

Mehaffy also said he believed if conservationists knew the terms of his easement deed, they would not have objected.

The COE will inform Mehaffy of concerns raised during the public comment period after Jan. 30, and give him time to respond. If the permit is granted, Mehaffy will have to come up with a mitigation plan to add the number of acres lost to wetlands elsewhere.

To comment, call Scott at 324-5296; write Little Rock District Corps of Engineers Regulatory Office, P.O. Box 867, Little Rock, AR 72203-0867; or e-mail tim.scott@usace.army.mil.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Fountain Fest sculpture reveal tonight at the Arts Center

    You'll have to go to the Arkansas Arts Center's Fountain Fest tonight to see how Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects' winning sketch was carried out as the temporary sculpture in the Carrie Remmel Dickinson fountain. The party, with food, drink and music, gets going at 5:30 p.m.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • Blue Canoe to open new brewing and gaming space

    Blue Canoe Brewing Co. is opening a 20,000-square-foot brewing and gaming space at 1637 E. 15th St., the old PC Hardware warehouse. Macie Fellows, who described herself as a “brand ambassador,” said the space, which Blue Canoe has remodeled “from the ground up,” will be Blue Canoe’s primary brewery.
    • Oct 11, 2017
  • Apartment project announced for SoMa

    The Lasiter Group announced today that it will build a 35-unit apartment complex in the 1300 block of Scott Street called the Villa View. The development, on the west side of Scott, will face the historic Villa Marre. The project should be complete by the end of 2018.
    • Oct 6, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Asa on pre-K

    • Aug 17, 2016

Most Shared

  • Guest Playlist: Flap Jones of "Not Necessarily Nashville" schools us on real country music

    "Not Necessarily Nashville," which airs on KUAR-FM 89.1 every Saturday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., celebrates three decades of the "best of the rest of country music" Saturday, October 21 at the White Water Tavern with Brad Williams of The Salty Dogs & The Creek Rocks, and we asked host Flap Jones to curate a playlist for us ahead of that anniversary celebration.
  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: 'Every day was a Tuesday'

    • Perceptions of being affected by Tuberculosis (TB) Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by the…

    • on October 22, 2017
  • Re: 2017 Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival preview

    • Yusssss!!!!!

    • on October 20, 2017
  • Re: Last

    • Such a great Observer column, but then they are all pretty damned good. It's the…

    • on October 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation