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Worrying about fishing when neighbors are in distress seems improper, but flooding will obliterate recreational use of the Arkansas River for weeks.

On Tuesday, the Arkansas Hospitality Association acknowledged that reality by asking its members for input on how to communicate the flood's impact on tourism to the public.

At risk is the Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza, which is scheduled June 28-30. The Big Bass Bonanza is the nation's largest amateur bass tournament, and it takes place on the entire length of the Arkansas River within the state's boundaries.

Right now, of course, the Arkansas River is unnavigable. Even after it ebbs to within its banks, it will probably be unsafe for organized recreational activities like fishing tournaments. Absent additional significant rainfall, there is still an awful lot of water in the flood control lakes on the Arkansas River and its watershed in Oklahoma.

For example, Kaw Lake was 33.17 feet above normal pool on Tuesday. Keystone Lake was at 753.03 feet. Flood pool is 754 feet. Lake Eufaula is just a tad under full pool. Lake Tenkiller is 23.39 feet above full pool. Lake Oologah is 25.16 feet above normal. Fort Gibson Lake is 27.35 feet above normal pool and rising. Grand Lake was 15.86 feet above normal pool.

Lakes in the Arkansas River drainage in Kansas and Nebraska are in the same condition.

The Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District, which is taking a lot of heat for releasing vast amounts of water from Keystone Lake into an already flooded Arkansas River, will continue to drain those lakes as long as necessary to bring them to their target levels. Ordinarily, they return to normal pool fairly quickly as the weather dries, but this has been an extraordinarily wet spring. If it keeps raining, the supply of excess water in storage will continue downstream for most of the summer.

The Arkansas Hospitality Association, which hosts the Arkansas Big Buck Classic, has had to postpone the tournament several times over the last 14 years because of unsafe boating conditions. It is pretty nimble in readjusting to present a safe event, even if it means fewer participants and a smaller payout.

This year, however, might be its most challenging call yet.

How about a little good news? Cale Davenport, assistant superintendent at Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock, reported Wednesday that floodwater at the park is slowly beginning to fall. He drew a chalk line at the high-water mark Tuesday. By Wednesday, the water was slightly below that mark.

However, water arriving at a swollen Mississippi River cannot drain and is instead backing over the floodplains at the confluences of the lower Arkansas River and Post Canal. It won't be leaving for a good while.

Saline River update

On May 30, Saline County Judge Jeff Arey denied a petition filed by several landowners to close the popular Nickel Bill access on the Saline River.

As reported here on April, 14 landowners petitioned Arey to "vacate" portions of Tom Kelly and Mountain View roads that meet at the Saline River. They claimed the river crossing is unusable for much of the year and cited lawlessness to justify closing the roads. Closure would essentially cede the road portions to the landowners. In fact, one landowner had already erected a gate across one of the roads, but the county compelled him to reopen it until the matter was resolved.

The closest mailing address of any petitioner to the river crossing by road is 3.3 miles. The farthest is 31 miles.

The situation is identical to an attempt by landowners in 2007 to convince the county to close a portion of Peeler Bend Road that was a longtime popular Saline River access. Former Saline County Judge Lanny Fite denied that petition. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission later built a proper access at the site.

The Game and Fish Commission weighed in late on the Nickel Bill situation after initially claiming neutrality. The commission later acknowledged the importance of the access to anglers and paddlers. Lisa Spencer, owner of Lisa's Bait Shop in Benton, said that was a very influential endorsement.

As Saline County grows, riverfront property on the Saline River is increasingly more valuable. That will continue to tempt some landowners to keep the public away from it.

It would be appropriate for the Game and Fish Commission to build a proper access at Nickel Bill to stave off future attempts.

Sports on 06/06/2019

Print Headline: Flooding threatens Big Bass Bonanza

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