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Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 3:02 pm
by Canoe_Codger
The more I look into this situation regarding the restoration of Little Sugar Creek, the more puzzling it becomes. The city council's position that is. The EA submitted for approval is so riddled with errors and outright misinformation that, in my nonexpert opinion, it renders the document useless. Yet the Council paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars to have it written and submitted by a licensed engineering firm from Texas. Fortunately the document is not yet accepted as there is a public comment period yet still open.

A review of the document shows these errors among others:

1: The claim that there are no other recreational lakes in the area. Any of us familiar with the area know better. Almost every watercourse in the area, large and small, has an manmade impoundment including Beaver Lake. In fact, there are at least 20 named lakes and reservoirs in Benton County, Arkansas.

2: A restriction in the deed makes any course besides repair or replacement impossible. A review of the deed and included restrictions shows no such thing.

3: That the impoundment is a valuable recreational asset to the community. However local ordinances make it unlawful to swim in the lake, sedimentation and algae bloom make it inhospitable for aquatic species, as well as an eyesore which makes the adjacent park less hospitable.

4: The claim that the damage to the dam originated with a 2011 flood event, thus coverable by FEMA grants. The dam was documented as failed before that event. And in fact was in poor condition years prior, even to the time when the property was deeded to the city by the Bentonville/Buena Vista Trailblazers Assoc., Inc. in 2006. It is my understanding that the city has done many unprofessional, unengineered repairs on the dam after each overtopping event by simply dumping concrete, rock and other debris into the holes on the downhill face of the dam. This "failure mode maintenance" has been going on for some time. As recent review by concerned professionals has shown, the dam fill is saturated and leaking in several places through the downhill face. Even the city engineer noted the possibility of catastrophic failure of the dam structure.

5. It is noted in the EA that no other viable alternative but replacement of the dam exists. This is not true, as shown by the proposed stream restoration, with or without the improvement features shown in the landscape concept drawing.

6. The report states that there is no karst geology involved in the dam or the impoundment. I am not a geologist, but it is my understanding that karst does underlay the dam and lake.

There are many more points of contention in the EA which need to be explored in detail, and refuted in detail.

It is being reported and accepted as fact that FEMA funding for the replacement of the dam has been approved, but as far as I can determine, that is not the case. Funding has been applied for (the fatally flawed EA is a part of the process), but not yet approved and no funds have been promised or disbursed. Meanwhile the clock is ticking on the failed dam structure.

I do hope that those of you who have interest in this topic, the reclamation and restoration of a free flowing Arkansas stream, will take a few minutes to let your views be known in detail to Alan at the email address previously given. That includes people from surrounding states as you all have a stake in this, even if you never dip a toe or paddle in Little Sugar creek. Many of you have something special to add to this effort. Whether it is technical writing skills, adeptness at deciphering legalese, research abilities, media skills and contacts, or just a love of clean flowing water. Take the time to review the history, all of the documents and form your own opinions.

Please email:


Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 9:33 pm
by greg vanhorn
Due to the mayoral dictate that doesn't allow any public input in Bentonville City Council meetings which are not pre-approved by the mayor, there has never been a single public meeting to openly discuss this issue. This is our chance to get a public hearing on this issue.

Please take a few minutes to email

Any of the topics outlined so well by Michael will be good topics to let FEMA, The City of Bentonville and CP&Y Engineering know that we don't want their dam! Let's fill up Alan's email box with substantive comments. If we remain silent, they will find a way to build this dam. The Lake Bella Vista dam:
1. Degrades water quality
2. Limits recreation
3. Decimates fish populations
4. Creates an algae farm
5. Will waste of valuable tax dollars and resources to rebuild

Stop Bentonville's dam plans! Write to

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 1:56 pm
by greg vanhorn
The following letter was emailed to the mayor of Bentonville and City Council today!

We have about 25 days left during the public comment period to send comments to It is somewhat ironic, but the FEMA Region 6 offices are closed due to icy roads in Denton, Texas. Even FEMA stays home when the roads get bad. But, Alan will be back in his cubicle tomorrow. Let's fill his email box with comments about this flawed report they're calling an Environmental Assessment. It's really more of a sales proposal for building a dam. STOP THE BENTONVILLE DAM PROJECT. Email

Dear Mayor McCaslin and Members of the City of Bentonville City Council:

Everyone understands the value of turning liabilities into assets. In its current condition, the Lake Bella Vista dam is a liability for Bentonville.

Lake Bella Vista dam is classified by the Association of Dam Safety Officials as a "failed" dam due to "faulty material and hydrologic deficiencies." The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission classifies the dam as a "high-hazard structure." The dam has substantial leaks in many locations. Water can be seen flowing through the dam and coming out of the back of the earthen dam. The longer the dam continues in its current condition the greater the risk it poses to the community.

It is understandable that those with limited knowledge of the history of the dam might want to repair it or replace it in an attempt to somehow keep it intact, in spite of the flooding and environmental damage the dam and reservoir cause to the community.

Few things have as much negative environmental impact on a river as a dam. In addition to interfering with natural ecosystems, eliminating wild fish populations and replacing the recreational opportunities of free-flowing stream with an algae-ridden reservoir, reconstructing this dam is the ultimate misuse of our natural waterway (see attached letter from Dr. Arthur Brown).

Repairing or replacing the dam would not remedy these problems - it will only extend the life of these problems. Furthermore, the geology of the dam area raise serious questions about the long-term viability of repairing or rebuilding the dam (see attached letter from Dr. John V. Brahana). Even if funds from FEMA become available, keeping the dam is not the best use of our tax dollars.

Removing the dam and restoring Little Sugar Creek as a free-flowing Ozark stream will provide recreational opportunities and even draw economic interest to this area, and do so at less expense than the cost of replacing the dam! A restored Little Sugar Creek would provide opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, float-fishing, swimming or just relaxing by a flowing stream. We believe once Little Sugar Creek is allowed to flow freely, the creek and park will become a destination and people will seek out this living, moving waterway. (See attached concept design for one possibility).

There are many reservoirs in Northwest Arkansas, but very few free-flowing waterways which have not been dammed. Removing the dam and restoring Little Sugar Creek would be a unique event in this region and become a notable asset for the city by enhancing opportunities for outdoor recreation while improving the quality of the stream and our watershed.

Friends of Little Sugar Creek is a coalition of serious-minded people who are concerned about the rapid disappearance or degradation of many Ozark streams that have been the source of pleasure and sustenance for us all. We intend to work for the preservation of this natural resource which is an important part of our Ozark natural history and our main watershed in this part of Benton County. We believe that removing the dam and restoring the creek is a better means of creating an asset for Bentonville and the surrounding community than is rebuilding the dam. We believe the city's current plan of continuing to wait for FEMA to fund the reconstruction of this unnecessary, six hundred foot long dam across a valley which is not more than thirteen hundred feet wide fosters unreasonable development and will only cause further damage to our watershed. We believe a restored Little Sugar Creek will be better for Bentonville than a rebuilt Lake Bella Vista dam.

We respectfully request that you give mindful serious consideration to our proposal, and we welcome opportunities to provide additional supporting information.

Thank you,

Greg Van Horn
Friends of Little Sugar Creek" onclick=";return false;

cc: Dr. John Van Brahana, Professor Emeritus, University of Arkansas

Dr. Arthur Brown, Professor, Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas

William Robert Irvin, President, American Rivers

Friends of Little Sugar Creek
Dr. John Brahana.jpg

To drown a river beneath its own impounded water, by damming, is to kill what it was and to settle for something else. When the damming happens without good reason...then it's a tragedy of diminishment for the whole planet, a loss of one more wild thing, leaving Earth just a little flatter and tamer and simpler and uglier than before - David Quammen, The Gift of Rivers: True Stories of Life on the Water

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 4:46 pm
by riptide

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 8:36 pm
by Ryan Center
My email to Alan Hermely has been sent!

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Thu Feb 26, 2015 11:08 am
by Miss Ellie
If not to late add:

Calvin & Ellanorah Wilson

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Thu Feb 26, 2015 6:22 pm
by lwe
I am working on my email to FEMA and wanted to share one thought with everyone. Please specifically request a public hearing. The more people that request a public hearing the better.
My 2 cents...

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 12:11 pm
by greg vanhorn
Thanks to Mike Masterson for his column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette!
Damn the dam.pdf
Damn the Dam to Save the Creek (Little Sugar Creek)
(90.17 KiB) Downloaded 64 times

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Sun Mar 08, 2015 8:16 pm
by greg vanhorn

There is nothing like spending the night on the Buffalo River to rejuvenate a soul after meeting with a Bentonville City Councilman who did not have time to visit the lake Bella Vista dam due to the weather, but said that the dam is not dangerous. Although, CP&Y Engineering says, "the dam poses a serious safety risk..." and the ANRC says, "the dam is in disrepair" (see attached letter).

On Friday, March 6th, a group from Friends of Little Sugar Creek met with Councilman Octavio Sanchez at Dr. Neil Compton's house (Compton Gardens). It was a two and a half hour meeting which made us realize we are going to have an up hill battle with the Bentonville City Council. Councilman Sanchez said he wrote a book in Mexico on statistics and he took a poll of twenty people and only five people favored "destroying the lake." He also said that one of the people that favored reconstructing the dam said she liked the view of the lake while driving past it on her way to Joplin. However, we were prepared for the "drive-by" defense for re-damming the waterway and showed pictures of algae covering the lake and responded that she might also enjoy seeing a flowing creek on her way to Joplin.

Thanks to everyone that participated in this meeting. Darrell Bowman presented some interesting facts about the amount of effluence that flows into Lake Bella Vista as a ratio to its holding capacity. He showed how that ratio was 50 times greater than other lakes in Bella Vista. This is because of the location of Lake Bella Vista, which is low in the valley and in close proximity to other tributaries. Darrell also presented some information with a specific funding source for removal and restoration projects. Darrell spoke directly with the funding source and gave a contact name and phone number during the presentation. He indicated that they are waiting with funds for someone from Bentonville to call.

Ali Phillips spoke about the deficiencies in the deed and the economic advantages of restoring a waterway. Zachary Hoyt is on the Board of Directors for the International Fly Fishing Federation's Southern Council and is Chairman of the Pea Ridge Planning Commission. Zach spoke about how Little Sugar Creek could become a small-mouth bass fishing destination by improving the habitat that small-mouth bass and other native fish need to be successful. Richard Dees spoke about what a great float stream we have in Little Sugar Creek and how dam removal and river restoration would benefit this natural resource which is right in our backyard. It was a good practice meeting for us and I've received a call from another council member that is interested in learning about funding options for dam removal and creek restoration. At this time, we think our best strategy is to send comments to

Of importance, the deadline for sending your comments to is March 17th. I spoke to Dr. Brahana and he said he'd have his comments completed by tomorrow. I'll send or post his comments. The EA states that karst is exempt from the 20 acre lake where Bentonville is planning to build the dam. Also, I've heard from a friend that some employees of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will be sending comments in opposition to this dam construction project.

To my knowledge, there has never been a community in Arkansas come together to fight for the removal of a "high-hazard" dam, instead of its replacement. What we are doing is unique and important work and I thank you all for caring. The "pro-dam" politicians want us to be apathetic. Let's show them we are not and we don't want this dam. We want Little Sugar Creek resurrected and restored.

Thank you to Debbie Doss for petitioning the ANRC to inspect the dam and for all your help in this process. And, to Michael "Canoe Codger" Little for so much advice like, "try not to be so derogatory and leave out that adjective." Thank you to Mike Masterson for writing a great article about this issue in last Sunday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I think, like a puppy, I piddled when I read it. Thank you to Karan Ciotti (Partner at Ogden, Gibson, Broocks, Longoria & Hall) for all your free legal advice and your comments on their EA like, "I see nothing in Section 404 that scares me. Maybe that's the reason why the report doesn't offer any explanation of what Section 404 is - instead CP&Y just throws out vague, ominous language like 'trigger regulatory issues...' They make it sound like the feds are going to come in and impose martial law in the Ozarks if local residents decide they'd rather have a free-flowing creek that doesn't flood the valley rather than a giant algae farm." And, Thank you to Luke Coop for editing and publishing the "Special Report" in "The Paddler."(on page 6, but in THE PADDLER).

Please send comments to It will only take a few minutes. If you need help about what to say in a comment, we can help with suggestions. If we can get this EA rejected, it will make getting this dam, which should never have been built, much harder to get rebuilt. Also, we are working on a letter that we will be sending to Governor Hutchinson, a Benton County native. In addition to FEMA funding, Bentonville is trying to use ADEM funds, so we want the Governor to know that there is no emergency in rebuilding this dam for Bentonville's recreation, provided the recreation does not include swimming(sorry Michael. I couldn't resist).

Have a great work week!

Greg Van Horn

Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — David Bolling, How to Save a River: Handbook for Citizen Action

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 9:02 pm
by Canoe_Codger
More good news today. I'll let Greg spill the beans here but those who are following the progress of this project on Facebook can view the latest news just posted there today.


Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 7:17 am
by greg vanhorn
bella vista dam fema_v5.docx
(104.11 KiB) Downloaded 78 times

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 7:19 am
by greg vanhorn
bella vista dam 2 mayor_v3.docx
And, just when you thought he couldn't get any cooler,
--a bonus letter to Mayor McCaslin
(156.14 KiB) Downloaded 70 times

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 9:53 am
by Canoe_Codger
To briefly summarize, Dr. John Van Brahana, Professor Emeritus Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, has written a response and critique of the Draft Environmental Assessment written and submitted to FEMA regarding the Lake Bella VIsta Dam on Little Sugar Creek for transmission to Mr. Alan Hermely, Environmental Specialist, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Region VI.

In it he makes refutation of most of the claims in the EA on a point by point basis with (in professional style) footnoted sources of other credentialed professionals. He concludes thus: " I strongly recommend that this dam be removed rather than rebuilt. "

In essence, he confirms what Greg, I and others have suspected all along about the geology and stream health, as well as touching on the biology of the watershed (also glossed over in the EA).

IMHO it is worth a read. The Dr. is thorough, professional and concise. Beyond being a boon to our efforts to restore the creek, his letter is very informative to those who are unsure of the issues involved, regardless of their side of the fence or even straddling it.


Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Fri Mar 13, 2015 8:50 pm
by Canoe_Codger
My email to Alan Hermely has been sent as well.

Re: Stop the Bentoville dam project

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:02 pm
by DeBo
I have sent comments for the Arkansas Canoe Club to Mr. Hermely as well. I sent the letter below along with some comments about the mistakes in the EA.

Dear Mr. Hermely,

I am commenting on the plans to remove the dam on Little Sugar Creek at Bella Vista. These comments are on behalf of the Arkansas Canoe Club. The ACC is a recreational organization consisting of over 600 member households representing seven chapters in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. Our members paddle the rivers, streams, bayous and lakes of Arkansas and beyond. We are dedicated to participating in and promoting the sport of paddling by holding paddling schools and clinics, whitewater rescue courses, river cleanups and being active in conservation and river access issues.

We have recently been made aware of the plans to remove and restore the dam on Little Sugar Creek at Bella Vista due to its age and safety concerns. While we support the removal of this dam, we do not support its reconstruction. The sole purpose of this dam has been to create a small lake for recreational use by nearby residents. It has been unable to support even this limited purpose. It is too small to support a sustainable fish population and becomes choked with algae during summer months, creating unsafe conditions for swimming. We believe that the purpose of recreation can be much better served by removing the dam, remediating the stream and returning it to a free flowing condition.

Many of our club members live near Little Sugar Creek. They float on the stream and many others fish there. Little Sugar Creek supports a native fishery that would benefit greatly from dam removal.
Dams prevent the flow of plants and nutrients, impede the migration of fish and other wildlife, and block recreational use. By slowing water flow, dams increase water temperatures encouraging algal growth and harming native species. This has been observed at the Bella Vista lake.
Dams also decrease oxygen levels in reservoir waters. When oxygen-deprived water is released from behind the dam, it kills fish downstream. Dams hold back silt, debris, and nutrients. By slowing flows, dams allow silt to collect on river bottoms and bury fish spawning habitat. Silt trapped above dams accumulates heavy metals and other pollutants. Gravel, logs and other debris are also trapped by dams, eliminating their use downstream as food and habitat. Unhealthy streams lose their aesthetic value and discourage recreational use.

Permanent dam removal would restore flows for fish and wildlife, reinstate the natural sediment and nutrient flow, eliminate safety risks, restore opportunities for recreation, and drastically reduce tax payers costs by not rebuilding the dam.

Removal would also eliminate future expenses associated with maintenance and safety repairs. In most cases where dams have been removed money is actually saved over the long term. In addition, income can be generated from newly available recreation opportunities including fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and rafting, which may actually result in a net economic benefit.

We believe that the negative impacts of the dam on Little Sugar Creek and riverside communities outweigh the benefits of a new dam in this location. Over the past 100 years in this country over 1,150 dams have been permanently removed. We hope Little Sugar Creek will soon be one of them.

Sincerely, Debbie Doss
Conservation Chair
Arkansas Canoe Club