White River named National Blueway

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published January 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 16, 2013 at 10:19 a.m.
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James K. Joslin

A huge group of mallards and other species of ducks takes flight from a flooded field between the Cache and White rivers in eastern Arkansas. The White River corridor in The Natural State has long been a haven for fish and game, as well as those who pursue them. On Jan. 9, the White River and its watershed were named a National Blueway because of the area’s value to the state with regard to the economy, recreation and nature.

The White River and its watershed were named a National Blueway on Jan. 9 by the U.S. secretary of the interior.

The river, which runs through a significant portion of the state, has 722 river miles, said Ricky Chastain, a deputy director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The White River is only the second river in the nation to be recognized as a National Blueway, and Chastain said this is the first water source to completely go through the National Blueways System nomination process. Chastain said the Connecticut River, which was the first National Blueway, was chosen in May by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and his committee.

The National Blueway designation is designed to conserve the economic, recreational and natural values of healthy river systems from source to outlet and across watersheds, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The Blueway allows for many organizations, both state and federal, to work together to preserve water sources that are essential to life in the state of Arkansas.

“We’re excited about the opportunity here,” Chastain said. “It will bring major federal agencies together that don’t normally coordinate together.”

Chastain said the White River is an incredible source of income to the state and the Three Rivers area.

“The river is a tremendous economic engine for Arkansas,” Chastain said. “Last year, [the river] brought $1.8 billion into Arkansas with hunting and fishing economies.”

Jerry Weber of Mountain View, a member of the Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers, said the group does what it can to protect the river and its watershed. He has been with the group for about six years.

“The White River and its watershed is absolutely critical [to the state],” Weber said.

Weber said the group acts as a public watchdog for pollution and other concerns the community might have with the water sources and said he was both surprised and excited about the river being named a National Blueway.

The group works on projects to raise awareness about preserving and protecting the rivers in its community.

The Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers has done presentations at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home about protecting the White River and its watershed.

He said the group hadn’t heard about the White River

being named a National Blueway, but it was a pleasant surprise.

“The river is tremendous to the well-being of Arkansas,” Weber said.

Staff Writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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