“A multitude of agencies” will take another crack at solving the problems surrounding one of Arkansas’ oldest bodies of water — Lake Conway.

Homeowners are skeptical, however, that another long-term study could provide the solutions needed now, such as for flooding, and solutions later, such as sedimentation.

More than a year ago, the Lake Conway Watershed Advocacy Group began meeting under the leadership of Rep. Jane English to try to solve problems in and around Lake Conway.

The group identified the issues as poor water quality, excessive sedimentation, flooding and lack of ingress/egress to a nearby subdivision on Grassy Lake Road in times of flooding.

Metroplan will facilitate a new, more in-depth approach, pulling the stakeholders together in the $1,081,500 study.

Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin recently applied for a grant in the amount of $520,000 for phase two of the study, which will provide a comprehensive Low Impact Development Plan for the Lake Conway Watershed under the facilitation of Metroplan Research Planner Marsha Guffey. 

“We’re looking to develop a regional set of development guidelines,” Guffey said. “All property around Lake Conway contributes to the water quality.”

Conway is the state’s second fastest growing city, according to Metroplan, and a major contribution to flooding is the inflow of sedimentation associated with urban development and growth. 

“There’s been a fair amount of topsoil that’s washed in there over time,” Scroggin said. 

Guffey said that sedimentation is a natural process that has been “sped up” because of runoff from developing areas.

With less permeable surfaces available for the natural filtering of runoff, unfiltered water carrying urban pollutants such as road waste and silt, enters the lake’s watershed and tributaries. 

Guffey said a water quality issue remains because of a lack of a sewer system around the lake. 

“ADEQ did testing. From time to time, it shows that there are problem areas,” Guffey said. “It’s large, so some pollution is absorbed. But with growth, there could be a point where Lake Conway says ‘enough.’”

District Fishery Supervisor Tom Bly, of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said water quality is within the parameters it should be for a fishing lake.

“The fish population is good,” Bly said. “We don’t see any anomalies in the fish that would indicate there’s any issue with the water quality. There’s been periodic problems in the past, but we’re trying to stay on top of all this stuff.”

The major issue, in Bly’s opinion, is flooding.

“Lake Conway is a catch basin for the watershed,” Bly said. “Everything above Lake Conway will flow through Lake Conway. Anything negative like development without sediment control will effect the lake.”

Bly said septic failures near the lake have been few, and steps are being made to redirect Conway’s treated sewage water flowing to the lake from the Stone Dam Wastewater Treatment Plant, to the Arkansas River. 

A major step has been taken to keep Grassy Lake Road above water, the sole thoroughfare for residents of Rogers Country Estates.

According to Scroggin, the project to raise the road above the flood line went to bid and was awarded last week.

The bid was more than $275,000 to build a new road bed and raise it “to a level that will keep it above most floods.”
“You can’t guarantee that it will guard against all,” Scroggin said.

Hayden Baldwin, Lake Conway Home Owners Association president, said he expects solutions for residents around the lake’s banks will come “several years off.”

“The only thing they’ll do is do the study, find out what problems are causing the issues. Recommendations are made from those, and allegedly, a game plan will be developed to figure out how to fix them,” Baldwin said. “As long as construction continues, we’ll have more flooding and more silt. They’re supposed to have regulations by the ADEQ. We’re acing as the watch dogs. We’re the ones trying to make sure what agencies are saying they will do, is actually being done.”

Some homes, Baldwin said, were simply built too low for the area. 

All parties agree that flooding will not be evaded completely and will continue to cause problems as the lake’s sedimentation increases over time.

“This is a step for us and we think we can help alleviate the problems,” Bly said. “There’s always a chance of flooding when you live in a flood plane. That’s a fact of life.”

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)