Central Arkansas Water commissioners clear way for rule changes on hunting, recreation in Lake Maumelle watershed

Central Arkansas Water commissioners clear way for rule changes on hunting, recreation in Lake Maumelle watershed

Central Arkansas Water commissioners approved a resolution Thursday to clear the way for proposed changes to regulations governing hunting and other outdoor activities on land the utility owns in the Lake Maumelle area.

Commissioners also signed off on a $1.2 million contract with a Conway firm to replace over 6,000 linear feet of water mains in Little Rock.

Raven Lawson, Central Arkansas Water’s watershed protection manager, during Thursday’s recalled the 2009 memorandum of understanding between the utility and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission related to wildlife management, recreation and conservation in the area of ​​Lake Maumelle.

The memorandum led to single-year area lease agreements with the commission between 2010 and 2012.

Ultimately, a 99-year lease to the commission for the Maumelle River Wildlife Management Area was adopted in 2013 in exchange for $1 million paid out to Central Arkansas Water over three years.

Officials’ major goals for what they want to revise come down to “can we clean up boundaries and can we eliminate gray areas?” Lawson told board members Thursday. “Can we create places of better understanding for what is allowed and what isn’t allowed?”

Among the proposed changes, which would address hunting as well as other recreational activities, is the addition of 2,297 acres to the boundaries of the wildlife management area.

The addition would incorporate areas that are contiguous to existing management-area lands, that have public access points or that otherwise make sense for one reason or another, Lawson explained.

Hunting changes include the elimination of a permit draw that currently caps annual permits at 300.

Lawson, citing the commission, said that at the moment officials always get more than 300 applications, but the applicant figure is close to 300 every year. Hunting pressure is “currently very low,” she said.

On average, 14 or fewer deer are taken off the property annually, she said. As a result, officials actually see the size of the deer population increase, which creates other problems.

Revisions would also allow small-game hunting throughout huntable areas to clean up arbitrary lines, Lawson said.

“So if you are allowed to hunt in an area for deer with a bow, then we would also like to open that area up to small-game hunting,” she said.

Small-game hunting would remain restricted to shotgun-only with non-toxic shot, she said.

Lawson indicated that a lot of the small-game hunters are age 10 or under and are pursuing squirrels or small birds, a hunting category which across the state “is on a drastic decline,” she said.

Another proposed change would remove lake hours and seasons. Lawson noted that the rules are “rarely observed or enforced, and so we’d just like to strike that and eliminate confusion.”

Approval of the resolution by Central Arkansas Water’s board on Thursday does not mean the revisions are final.

The proposed changes will still have to go to the Game and Fish Commission for the regulatory approval process, according to Lawson. Barring any interruptions, the changes would go into effect in 2023.

At the same meeting Thursday, Central Arkansas Water commissioners approved a construction contract with a firm to replace roughly 6,100 linear feet of existing water mains in Little Rock.

The contract amount is for approximately $1.2 million.

The board’s agenda described the galvanized water pipe set for replacement as “very problematic and high maintenance,” adding, “The area of ​​this project is unusually spread out and in older, established neighborhoods in Little Rock.”

Jim Ferguson, Central Arkansas Water’s Director of Engineering, at last month’s meeting brought what was termed phase 1 of the replacement work to the board. At that time, commissioners approved a contract with the JR Fox Company for just over $1 million to replace approximately 6,400 linear feet.

Ferguson’s presentation Thursday identified planned work in phase 2 that is expected to take place near Booker Street, East 26th Street, Village and Sunny Hill courts as well as Arapaho Trail.

He said the utility received a total of four bidders. MC Communications, a firm in Conway, submitted the low bid, Ferguson said.

Central Arkansas Water has partnered with the firm before, according to Ferguson.

In response to a question from a board member, Ferguson said that the firm started out as a cable-and-conduit company, as one can see by its name, but has branched out into the water-line business.

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