Drinking Water Supply for 400,000 Little Rock Residents Protected

February 10, 2012

After three years of negotiations, The Trust for Public Land and Central Arkansas Water (CAW) have successfully protected two tracts of land around Lake Maumelle. Located 15 minutes west of Little Rock, Lake Maumelle supplies drinking water to over 400,000 Central Arkansas residents. Central Arkansas Water's ownership and management of the lake and surrounding land has created natural protection to a vital drinking water supply for the region. However, due to growth pressures changing the landscape in Pulaski County, Central Arkansas Water has been working to increase land they protect and manage by roughly 1,400 acres. In partnership with The Trust for Public Land (TPL), two significant land protection projects are now complete: conservation of the 915-acre Winrock Sod Farm and the acquisition of a 488-acre parcel along the north shore of Lake Maumelle.

Chris Deming, The Trust for Public Land's Arkansas State Director said, "Central Arkansas Water's commitment to the protection of the drinking water supply for over 400,000 customers is a wise investment today and follows on the visionary efforts of previous generations that saw the benefit of protecting Lake Maumelle. We have enjoyed our working relationship with Central Arkansas Water and stand ready to assist with any future conservation goals."

This partnership included collaboration with multiple state agencies and funding from several sources, including the USDA's Forest Legacy Program, which leveraged the state's investment towards the protection of these critical resources. The protection of the combined 1,400 acres will not only protect the drinking water supply for over 400,000 residents of Arkansas but will open up a large area for new recreational opportunities just west of Little Rock.

"TPL has been a vital partner with Central Arkansas Water during the past few years as we continually seek ways to better protect our drinking water supply," said Commissioner Eddie Powell, who was Central Arkansas Water's board chairman when talks with The Trust for Public Land initially commenced. "Without the help of TPL, this endeavor would have been much more difficult and I cannot thank TPL enough for what it has done for our community. Chris Deming and all of the personnel at TPL are to be commended for their efforts in helping CAW and its ratepayers further enhance our commission's main goal of ensuring future generations enjoy the best drinking water possible."

The 915-acre Winrock Sod Farm project was the state's top priority for the FY 2012 Forest Legacy Program competition, submitted for consideration in the fall of 2010. The project was also strongly supported by U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), whose support of the Forest Legacy Program was instrumental to the project's success. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR-02) have also been strong supporters of the project.

"As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I was proud to help shepherd this funding through the legislative process," Senator Pryor said. "Quality drinking water is essential to the community now and for economic growth opportunities in the future. I appreciate the local and state leaders whose vision and momentum helped move this project forward."

"Protecting the water supply for Central Arkansas is important to support future economic growth and development," Senator Boozman said. "I applaud local leaders for preparing and planning for the future needs of the community so families and businesses can have clean water and recreational opportunities for years to come."

"We must conserve Arkansas' rivers, forests and wetlands to preserve its beauty and clean water supply and to foster economic opportunity for all Arkansans," Congressman Griffin said. "I commend everyone who worked to make this conservation effort a reality."

The Trust for Public Land acquired the property nearly two years ago. Since that time, TPL has advocated for $4 million dollars of Forest Legacy funding to use towards the overall protection of this critical tract with 2.5 miles of frontage along the Big Maumelle River, the source of water entering Lake Maumelle. When a FY 2012 appropriations bill passed at the end of the 2011, Central Arkansas Water learned that it had been awarded the $4 million dollars needed towards the permanent protection of the Winrock Sod Farm property.

"CAW was very pleased to learn that our Forest Legacy grant request had been funded," says Graham W. Rich, P.E., CAW's Chief Executive Officer. "These funds will go a long way towards enhancing and restoring the riparian corridor along the Maumelle River. The Maumelle River is the largest tributary to Lake Maumelle, and its protection will help maintain the high quality water that our customers expect."

In another sign of the time, Central Arkansas Water and The Trust for Public Land were also recently able to negotiate for a 488-acre parcel along the north shore of Lake Maumelle that had been slated for single family development prior to going back to the lender.

"The purchase of these two tracts is pivotal to the long-term water quality protection of Lake Maumelle," comments Stephanie Hymel, CAW's Stewardship Coordinator and the utility's lead on this project. "Central Arkansas Water would certainly like to thank the state agencies and non-profit organizations that assisted in the data compilation and application process for this award - The Nature Conservancy, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, and the Arkansas Forestry Commission. Special recognition goes to The Trust for Public Land (TPL), which assisted Central Arkansas Water in acquiring the Winrock Grass Farm and in lobbying for support of the application."

"CAW would also like to recognize its congressional delegation, past and present, for supporting the application. Our thanks go out to former Senator Blanche Lincoln, Senator Mark Pryor, Senator John Boozman, and Congressman Tim Griffin. Special thanks to former State Senator Bob Johnson, who was instrumental in acquiring an additional $4 million in state funds. Without the unwavering support and determination of these legislators, the project would not have been funded. Central Arkansas Water wishes to extend its sincere thanks to all those involved," said Hymel.

The Trust for Public Land stepped in and acquired the property from the bank and has held the property until Central Arkansas Water was able to reimburse them for the property. Conveyance of this second property was completed the first week of February. When combined, these two transactions will accomplish CAW's increased land protection goals.

The USDA Forest Legacy Program, authorized by Congress in 1990 to keep intact natural and recreational resources of the nation's dwindling forests, supports state efforts to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands. It provides federal money to states to protect threatened working forests and woodlands either through public purchase or conservation easements. To date, the program has protected more than 2 million acres of forest lands across the country, including over 674,000 acres in Maine. More information

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, we have helped protect 3 million acres nationwide. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.