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Improvements underway at Shirey Bay Rainey Brake

BY Randy Zellers

ON 03-18-2024


ALICIA — Arkansas Game and Fish Commission contractors and staff are taking the next step in improving the infrastructure surrounding Arkansas’s famous greentree reservoirs this week as a major update to the diversion ditch at Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA in Lawrence County begins.

The project, one topic featured at last month’s public meetings at Pocahontas and Jonesboro, will begin with crews mulching four miles of overgrown brush along the ditch to improve the flow of water.

“They’ve already mulched about two miles in the last two weeks,” Reid Phifer, assistant chief of the AGFC’s Operations Division over capital construction, said. “And they should move even faster on the remainder because the trees and brush in that section of the ditch are much smaller in diameter.”

Phifer says contractors will work at key points along the ditch to fix siltation issues that have built up over the decades, increasing the capacity of the system. But the lion’s share of improvements to water management will come with the replacement of seven water-control structures and two bridges that are bottlenecks preventing the flow needed to move water through the WMA’s greentree reservoirs.

“It’s going to be 1,000 percent better for water management and getting that water through the WMA during the growing season and give us the opportunity to work with the ecosystem more efficiently during the winter migration,” Jason Jackson, state wetlands program coordinator for the AGFC, said. “We’re replacing all seven of those 36- to 48-inch pipe and precast box water control structures with 11- to 12-foot wide overshot gates. Two bridges also are being installed on existing crossings that cause a bottleneck where the flow slows down.”

According to Phifer, the old concrete structures will be replaced with railcar bridges.

“The bridges and each water-control gate will replace the undersized, aged, failing infrastructure,” Phifer said. “We anticipate having equipment in place to begin the larger construction projects within the next week. All structures and bridges will be replaced one at a time to lessen any access issues.”

AGFC Director Austin Booth said the project could not have been undertaken without the help of many partners, including Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, who recently celebrated the passage of many appropriations bills to aid Arkansans and various infrastructure projects in The Natural State.

“Shirey Bay is one area where we can be proactive and accomplish a lot for public  waterfowl habitat with some straightforward improvements to infrastructure,” Booth said. “On behalf of Arkansas’s sportsmen and sportswomen, I am grateful for Sen. Boozman’s strong and dependable support for conservation and faith in the waterfowl hunting and conservation community to improve habitat and provide public waterfowling access for future generations.”

Visit to keep abreast of the Shirey Bay Rainey Brake project as well as other major habitat and access improvement projects throughout Arkansas.

Visit for more information on the AGFC’s efforts to restore and maintain Arkansas’s rich public land waterfowl hunting tradition.






Roughly six miles of overgrown brush along a diversion ditch at Shirey Bay Rainey Brake are being mulched to increase water flow through the system.

Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA in Lawrence County will see much needed improvement to water management thanks to an appropriation sponsored by Sen. John Boozman.

Two railcar bridges similar to this one installed during the recent Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA renovation project, will replace existing bridges where flow is being impeded.

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