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Save Greers Ferry Lake

Greers Ferry Lake Needs Your Help!

Newsletter - November 2012

Dear Friend,

The hot, dry summer is finally behind us. Emphasis on dry, as Greers Ferry Lake fell to its lowest level in a decade or more. The lowest elevation reached during the year was just above 453' msl. This is less than one foot above the highest water intake screens being constructed for the new Lonoke/White Public Water Authority (LWPWA) water intakes now under construction in the Cove Creek area.


The Corps of Engineers permit for this new water intake was issued some nine years ago. The permit was for a vertical shaft drilled down from a water processing site; then via a horizontal shaft into the lake for a single level water intake which would be well below the surface at lowest lake levels. There would be no landscape disruption other than at the water processing site and for transport pipe laying beyond. This would follow practices that have provided safe drinking water from the lake for some 40+ years.

Lonoke/White PWA filed a modification request when the Arkansas Health Department specified using multiple levels of water intakes to draw "best quality water" at varying lake surface elevations. AHD planned the highest water intakes to be at 458' msl which would, in theory, draw "best quality water" at lake levels up to 473'msl. Water quality vs. depth varies greatly with location and no tests were made during high water levels at Cove Creek to confirm the theory. The 458' msl intake screens would have protruded approximately 5 feet above the surface at recent low lake levels. The intake screens are about the size of a fishing boat and there would be multiple screens at each elevation. These obstacles above or slightly below the lake surface, close to a scenic recreation area, would be safety concerns for swimmers and boaters, detractions to scenic tourism areas, and devaluation to area property values. To mitigate these negatives and to discourage setting a precedent for further obstacles above the lake surface, the Directors of Save Greers Ferry Lake, Inc petitioned for intake elevations to be limited to a maximum of 450'msl. Current intakes below this elevation have safely served water customers for some 40+ years. The Corps of Engineers compromised in issuing a final permit that limits intake elevations to 453'msl.

Further major changes in the permit modification request were to use sloping water intake lines instead of the vertical-horizontal system. These lines would be above ground from the process station down into the lake. In addition, considerable shoreline changes would occur. The Corps of Engineers and SGFL insisted the sloping lines be buried from the shoreline to the processing station at the top of the hill. The Corps also specified landscaping requirements to minimize erosion and aesthetic harm to the scenic recreation area. The project will put four 42"diameter intake lines in the lake about a mile east of the Cove Creek boat launching and camping areas. Burial of the 36" transfer lines to serve communities of Austin, Beebe, Furlow, Grand Prairie, Jacksonville, North Pulaski, Ward, and Vilonia has already begun. The system is designed to initially provide 10 million gallons per day to these communities and to have the capability to expand to 30 million gallons per day.   The system is to be in operation by the end of 2015.


In spite of claims that natural gas drilling is on the decline due to the low price of natural gas. There appears to be considerable activity in the Cleburne and Van Buren County areas with new wells ever closer to the shores of Greers Ferry Lake (See aerial photos of wells on Greers Ferry Lake). No authority seems to know, or care to reveal, if any of the drilling extends under the lake.   The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls the sale of gas drilling leases, Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission (AOGC) determines regulations, and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) inspects and enforces regulations. The Corps of Engineers has only "surface authority" for government property and can only restrict drilling activity with respect to structures, developments, and actions within the lake.

BLM claims it will not sell new gas drilling permits until an overall study is completed. They did cancel a lease sale in the Hill Creek Recreation Area a day before the sale was scheduled. This may have been influenced by lawsuits and challenging of drilling on government property.

AOGC implies that it has new regulations that require disclosure of all chemicals used in drilling operations. However, a clause exempting the reporting of "proprietary" chemicals (gas company selected) seems to effectively void the disclosure rule. Five of the nine appointed Commissioners have their own drilling companies and two of the others are officers of oil and gas companies.

ADEQ is extremely understaffed to inspect and enforce regulations of the thousands of wells in the Fayetteville Shale. It was recently reported that only 7 out of 9 authorized inspectors were currently employed or active. A moratorium on injection wells (deep disposal of toxic waste water) was imposed on a specified area after it was determined that they contributed to earthquakes in the Greenbrier area (quakes strongly felt and heard at Greers Ferry Lake).


Thursday, October 3, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Greers Ferry Lake Dam. This was one of the last public events attended by President John Kennedy. The Corps of Engineers will hold a ceremony at the Overlook area where the original dedication took place in 1963. Numerous civic and business leaders will be invited to participate in the celebration. Please reserve this date to help observe and acknowledge the creation and importance of this area's most valuable resource. Also, contact Laurie Driver, Little Rock District Public Affairs Office (ph. 501-324-5551) or Joe Harper, Heber Springs Corps of Engineers office (ph 501-362-2416) to coordinate your group's participation in this observance.

Save Greers Ferry Lake, Inc asks for your continued support in protecting the clean water and natural shoreline of Greers Ferry Lake for the future. SGFL, Inc is dedicated to continue its efforts to reduce the potential for adverse environmental, aesthetic, and safety issues which impact Greers Ferry Lake. Please click here to join or renew your tax deductible membership. Thanks to all who helped in the Annual Lakeshore Cleanup in September!