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Partners clean out timber-choked Palarm Creek

Posted: January 7, 2012 - 4:34pm

MAYFLOWER — Just when a multi-partnered Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir improvement campaign began rolling effectively, nature interfered.

A devastating tornado last spring threw hundreds of large and small trees and an immense amount of brush into Palarm Creek between the Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir dam and the Arkansas River. The creek was blocked, its water flow choked.

This stretch of the creek is the Pulaski-Faulkner county line much of the way. The creek must be free flowing to take water from Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir to the river in times of heavy precipitation.

That tornado traveled from the Lake Maumelle area across the river, destroyed a barn and several outbuildings, brushed a home, jumped over three liquor businesses then took out a church before slamming into the thick woods bordering the creek. Continuing northeasterly, the tornado ravished the Dr. James E. Moore Shooting Range of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and went out to its heaviest hit – Vilonia, where several lives were lost and millions of dollars of damage done.

Unclogging Palarm Creek instantly became a priority for the two-year-old Lake Conway Watershed Advocacy Group. The advocacy group has a persistent driving force in State Rep. Jane English of North Little Rock. Its agenda includes visible results like rebuilding Grassy Lake Road near Mayflower to avoid flood closures. Another is the now-completed scientific study of Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir’s makeup by Southwestern Energy Company. Longer range, the advocacy group is working on a permanent plan for low impact development in the lake’s watershed.

Involved in the advocacy group are a number of entities — Metroplan, the Little Rock-area planning group, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission which owns the lake but not the territory below it, Faulkner County, Pulaski County, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department and Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, the Arkansas Health Department and two citizens groups — Lake Conway Citizens Advisory Committee and Lake Conway Homeowners Association.

The creek was able to be cleaned out quickly using Emergency Watershed Protection funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. The cleanup was sponsored by Faulkner County, and landowners along the creek contributed to the match by burning the debris and reseeding the disturbed areas.

Cleaning the trees, brush and other debris from the creek also restores a hidden asset — a stream for fishing and floating. Palarm Creek from the lake’s dam to the river is not heavily used, but some anglers regard it as their secret fishing hole. Canoeists use it, too, and it’s handy to the Little Rock metropolitan area. Launching is just below the dam and under the Interstate 40 bridge. Takeout is at Palarm Creek Park, near the river.

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