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Lake Elmdale being drawn down to repair infrastructure

BY Jim Harris

ON 06-07-2017


June 7, 2017

Jim Harris

Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has begun an immediate drawdown of Lake Elmdale to repair a creek and spillway beyond the lake’s dam. The lake is being drawn down 3 to 4 feet, so that that damage from recent flooding can be repaired and plans can be made to prevent future damage, according to Jon Stein, the AGFC’s district fisheries supervisor in Rogers.

Three major, atypical flood events in the area since 2011, including 10 inches of rainfall in a two-day period last April, have resulted in problems for both the emergency spillway and a secondary spillway in handling the vast amounts of water. Flooding has caused a deep scouring in a creek leading off the spillway that needs to be filled, Stein said.

The recommendation from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission was that the AGFC immediately draw down the lake 3-4 feet, Stein said. The lake should reach the intended level by the weekend of June 10-11, he said, but another rain event on the first weekend in June saw the level briefly rise 2 feet, slowing the drawdown.

“The dam at Lake Elmdale was renovated in the 1990s,” Stein said. “At the time it was renovated, the watershed for Lake Elmdale was agriculture and forest land. But since then, the landscape of the area has totally changed.”

What was undeveloped farmland and woods around Lake Elmdale now is a Springdale subdivision with asphalt, concrete and shingles, Stein noted. Drainage from the subdivision and runoff from big rains now have nowhere else to go but directly into the lake.

The 2011 rain event, which totaled 17 inches, was the first instance of problems occurring with the spillway, he said. The secondary spillway was needed for the large amount of water, but it was moving so fast that it caused a washout. Stein said the AGFC spent several thousand dollars on repairs after that event.

Another major flooding occurred in December 2015. Stein said that a rain of 2 to 5 inches will typically raise the lake over the dam and into the emergency spillway, but with the large amount of water it then goes into the secondary spillway.

With the most recent rains and the lake drawdown, Stein said, the AGFC will “hire an engineer to look at  it and get an estimate to what will be needed to be done and to get the work done that the engineer recommends.” It is not known when the work will be completed and the lake returned to normal level. At normal level, Stein said, the Lake Elmdale is 30 to 35 feet at its deepest point.

“It was just an act of Mother Nature, a lot of water, a lot of rains coming down in a short time,” Stein said of the spillway damage. He said that the dam at Lake Elmdale is fine; the damage is occurring in the creek below it.

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