Killing the White River

Army Corps projects would forever alter Arkansas' White River

Field & Stream Online Editors

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dusting off an old plan to benefit local barge companies by channelizing 254 miles of the White River in Arkansas, including the heart of the White River National Wildlife Refuge, a winter waterfowl haven. The Corps intends to dredge a 9-foot-deep, 125-foot-wide channel for navigation-at a cost of nearly $31 million-having declared that the river generates only $20,000 in fish- and wildlife-related benefits annually for all of bordering Arkansas County. Yet Stuttgart, Arkansas, already reports $1 million per day in wildlife-related benefits from duck hunting alone.

At the same time, Corps officers are reviving another old proposal to divert millions of acre-feet of the White into adjacent ricefields, apparently without viewing channelization and the simultaneous, massive siphoning of river water as contradictory efforts. This latter project is so bad the Corps never concocted even vaguely credible numbers to justify the plan during its previous 40 years of design. This might be something that the Office of Management and Budget would want to keep an eye on.