Cavenaugh: 00:15:03.494 Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Over here to your right. I just have a real quick question on the Black River Settlement. If you could explain what that Black River Settlement is, how much it was, and what it’s actually to be used for.
Booth: 00:15:18.397 I can definitely give an explanation, ma’am. Whether that’s quick or not, I’ll do my best. So the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, we have several greentree reservoirs. These are wildlife management areas. We artificially hold water for two reasons. One, to provide a wintering waterfowl habitat, and two, to provide a public duck hunting opportunity. It was these wildlife management areas that really made Arkansas the national sensation of waterfowl duck hunting that it is. One of those greentree reservoirs is at Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Area in Northeast Arkansas. And all of our greentree reservoirs, especially that one, they’re really facing the same fundamental challenge, that the forest health there is in rapid decline and that that is attributable to the aging, obsolete infrastructure that we have there, but also just the completely different weather patterns that we had when that infrastructure was put in. So if you go back into the late 90s, early 2000s, we saw some rapid die-off in our red oaks at Dave Donaldson. We were able to correlate that with some irregular operations of Clearwater Lake and Dam in Missouri which is upstream of that wildlife management area. The Arkansas Game and Fish sued the Army Corp of Engineers for violating the water control plan, and in 2012 we received roughly a $13 million judgment after a unanimous decision by the United States Supreme Court. So we received that money in 2012.
Booth: 00:17:09.935 And if you’re looking at the fund balance saying, “Well, that fund balance is very similar to what you all received 10 years ago,” that’s 100% accurate. And the reason for that is, our ability to get work done at Dave Donaldson is directly connected to the weather and to the water levels. And even since 2012, we have not seen very large work windows where we’ve been able to actually get work done there. I brought some numbers on this question, ma’am. Since 2012 we’ve been able to spend $927,000 for mulching and for drainage restoration, over 850 for hydraulic and hydraulic data, $400,000 for topographic surveys. And then there were three fiscal years – that’s ’17, ’20, and ’21 – when we were unable to do any bit of work whatsoever because the water from the Black River and from Clearwater was so high. Now I will say that things are getting much better. In the fall, we had our first meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers we’ve had in four years on Black River. We’re very proud of that. And we’re working very, very hard with our congressional delegation right now to improve that relationship. And then we also are almost finished with the design and engineering phase to renovate that wildlife management area and we expect to begin work on the ground sometime in calendar year ’23. So in a year from now, we expect that Black River fund to be much smaller.
Cavenaugh: 00:18:48.358 Okay, thank you. And follow up, Mr. Chair? And with working with the Corps on Black River, you’re not just working on the wildlife management area, but you’re actually working on Black River itself? Because that is an issue up there in my world. It’s a big issue.
Booth: 00:19:07.938 Yes, ma’am. Yes. We’re working with them both on this project because the health of the wildlife management area is directly connected to Clearwater. But we’re also working with them on a much larger Black River project, trying to partner them in a long-term study to help understand the hydrology of Northeast Arkansas around the Black River and St. Francis.
Dotson: 00:31:44.588 Okay. And then finally on page 19, Black River Settlement, again, your actual spend last year was 268,000, but you’re asking for 13 million. Obviously, I guess, that’s a settlement that if you can spend more of that to fix the problem, that that would be probably good. But what do you anticipate your actual spending in the next year would be in that?
Booth: 00:32:14.435 So in total, that’s probably a $35 to $45 million project, and it’ll take a minimum four to five years to complete. And like I said in response to Representative Cavenaugh, we’ve been through the forest health assessment phase of that project. We’ve completed the hydrology phase of it. And we’re now in the design and engineering phase of it. And we intend to break ground on it in calendar year ’23. So if all of it’s not gone in a year from now, a lot of it will be.