Home > Missions > Projects > Grand Prairie Area Demonstration Project > Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Collapse All Expand All

Yes. The GPADP will help save both aquifers. The project uses little or no water from the deeper Sparta Aquifer to supply the area’s needs because of the aquifer’s relatively low yield and recharge, high purity, and increased cost for pumping. The project would still use the Alluvial Aquifer at its safe yield or an amount that could be pumped without further depleting the aquifer.

 

Yes. Studies have been conducted on the problem for several years. First recognized as a problem in the 1940s, more recent studies by the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NRCS, and several universities and the state of Arkansas have all confirmed a critical groundwater problem in the Grand Prairie region. The region has been declared a “Critical Groundwater Depletion Area.”

 

In a confined aquifer such as the deeper Sparta, the following occur: 

  1. Water levels are below the top of the formation 
  2. Water level declines of more than one foot per year for a 5-year period have been observed, (The entire available period of record is also evaluated.) 
  3. Trends indicate a decline in water quality. 

In an unconfined aquifer such as the Alluvial, the following occur: 

  1. The saturated thickness of the formation is less than 50 percent of the total thickness of the formation, (This is also considered the saturated thickness of the aquifer.)
  2. Water level declines of more than one foot per year for a 5-year period have
    been observed, (The entire available period of record is also evaluated.) 
  3. Trends indicated a decline in water quality.

 

Everyone in the Grand Prairie region will benefit from the project. The GPADP is critical to maintaining economic stability within the region. Without the project, the region’s agricultural economy will be devastated.

Farm revenues will decrease by 47 percent, with 77 percent of currently irrigated cropland no longer able to be irrigated by 2015. Rice production and flooded rice field habitat will decrease by 77 percent with $46 million in farm receipts in the Grand Prairie region lost. Everyone from farmers to farm-related businesspersons will be effected. Further, the area’s tax base will shrink as the value of farm real estate decreases by more than $100 million.

In addition, everyone in the region who drinks water from the aquifers, or those who will have to find an alternate commercial source of water, will be effected.

 

The Board of the White River Irrigation District (WRID) has set the annual assessment at $1-3 per irrigated acre.

If your land derives more benefits from this project, your assessment will be on the upper end of this range. If your land derives fewer benefits, your assessment will be in the low end of this range. An assessor determines the benefits to each tract of land and the assessment is recorded in each county.

The assessment will begin after the Improvement Project Area is formed. Assessments will be district-wide from the beginning, as all tracts of land will ultimately benefit, even though they do not initially receive District water.

 

Funding for the project will come from federal and non-federal sources. Federal funding will be appropriated by Congress. Non-federal funding will come from taxes, the sale of water, from the state and from donations.

Cost and revenue considerations are as follows: 

  • The District is a non-profit organization, as such; the cost of water will be adjusted to ensure no profits are made.
  • Bonds will be issued to underwrite the Irrigation District's financial obligation.

 

If the project is financed with 30-year bonds, the project will be paid for 30 years after the final year of construction. Construction is scheduled to be completed in six years with the project being paid for in 36 years. Once the project is paid for, funds from the sale of water will only be used for the operation and maintenance.

 

The project was planned with pump cutoff levels developed by the state of Arkansas in their draft 1986 water plan. The plan considers the needs of the river for water quality, fish and wildlife, and navigation prior to allowing for withdrawal of water for irrigation.

Studies were conducted by the Corps and others of the impacts to fisheries and wetlands. These studies concluded that the project has insignificant negative impacts. The wetland studies indicated that the project would actually more closely replicate the inundation pattern of the wetlands prior to construction of the reservoirs on the White River.

Waterfowl season is not irrigation season. Water demands are very minor during waterfowl season no withdrawals will occur during the month of December. The project has no significant impact on the White River flood elevations or durations.

Because the project does not have significant effects on the flooding, wetlands, and fisheries of the White River, the project has no significant effect on bird watching or waterfowl hunting on the river. The project will result in an additional 12 million duck use days on 38,000 acres of flooded and rolled rice fields in the Grand Prairie.

For more information please see the studies in the project Environmental Impact Statement. A summary is found in the project brochure or can be E-mailed to anyone by request.

 

The landowner controls property access. The District will have an easement for the purpose of canal operation and maintenance only. The District will not have access for any other purposes and cannot grant anyone access for any other purpose. Landowners still own the land and will continue to control access to their own canals and reservoirs.

In addition, no boating or swimming will be allowed in any of the canals built for the distribution of District water. The landowner will control any other access on his/her own property.

 

The Corps of Engineers studied several plans in order to select the best alternative. Options determined to be not feasible, unacceptable or which did not meet the needs of the area, were not considered during re-evaluation of the plans.

Alternative 1– No Action
With no action taken only 22 percent of the land that is currently irrigated would remain viable for irrigated agricultural use. This alternative was used as the basis for comparing all other alternatives.

Alternative 2 – Additional Storage
This plan outlined the construction of additional on-farm storage reservoirs without a water import system or conservation measures in place. Initial studies indicated irrigation water available for use on a farm might actually decrease if additional reservoirs were built without a source for any addition supply of water. The analysis showed that farmers in the Grand Prairie are already capturing a high percentage of the rainfall available. Building more reservoirs would not allow existing reservoirs to be filled to capacity and would increase water loss due to evaporation and infiltration as water is spread over more surface acreage. Further, additional reservoirs could only be filled in wet years without import water.

Alternative 3 – Conservation with Storage
This plan called for conservation measures without any import water to be implemented to maximize the use of existing water resources. Conservation measures would result in only 31 percent of the land remaining useable for irrigated agriculture.

Alternative 4 – Import System and Conservation without Additional Storage
This alternative couples conservation measures (without additional reservoirs) with an import system, which diverts water from the White River. Studies conducted by the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) showed that desired conservation impact could not be achieved without additional storage.

Alternative 5 – Combination Conservation, Storage and Importation of Water
This plan combines conservation, increased on-farm storage and a 1,800 cubic feet per second water import system. Arkansas state law limits potential water withdrawals.

Alternative 6 – Combination Alternative Plus Additional Storage
This plan was the same as the one listed above, but included 25 percent more storage capacity. According to studies by the NRCS, increased levels of on-farm storage above the optimum level were not considered feasible. Any increased benefit provided by additional storage was more than offset by the cost of building the storage facility.

Alternative 7 – Combination Alternative and Optimization of the Import System
This plan was the same as Alternative 5, except this plan optimizes the import system. Prior alternatives were used to optimize the on-farm components such as conservation measures and storage. In order to optimize the import system, on-farm components were held constant and four different import systems: 7A – 1,480 cubic feet per second import system, 7B – 1,640 cubic feet per second import system, 7C – 1,800 cubic feet per second import system, and 1,900 cubic feet per second import system. All were evaluated as separate alternatives.

 

With more food available from rice and soybean fields, the project is expected to maintain, if not increase the number of waterfowl frequenting the Grand Prairie region.

 

Studies conducted by the Corps of Engineers and other environmental organizations show the project's impact on the White River wetlands is insignificant.

 

No. However, sufficient water may not be available at all times and some irrigation may need to be scheduled during water shortages.

 

The District is responsible for getting the water to the farm. It is then sold to the farmer or landowner for use as he or she sees fit.

 

Yes. The appraisal of lands will include all improvements and costs necessary. For example, if a well is removed, compensation will be provided for the well, or if a pipeline is removed, the cost of restoring the pipeline to a different location will be covered in the project's costs and paid for by the District.

 

Information about the project is available through the office of the White River Irrigation District (WRID) at 807 North Main in Stuttgart, Ark. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. You may contact the office by mail at P.O. Box 498, Stuttgart, AR 72160, by telephone at 870-673-8836, by fax at 870-673-4090, or on the Internet at wrid@futura.net.

 

WRP and CRP are not appropriate programs to address the ground water depletion problems in the Grand Prairie because these programs were designed for other purposes and because the vast majority of the farmland in the Grand Prairie is not wetlands nor highly erodable. The WRP and CRP programs are not of the magnitude necessary to address the significant aquifer problems.

Purchase of land or interest in land to reduce water demand has been considered. The amount of land required to reduce the demand to a sustainable level is extremely high. To protect the aquifers even with the maximum economic application of conservation measures, over 178,000 of the area's current 241,000 acres of irrigated cropland could no longer be irrigated. This 73% reduction in irrigated cropland would be a large loss to the national economy and would devastate the regional economy, regardless of compensation to landowners, because of the loss of continued production and processing by agribusiness.

Current water demand is over 480,000 acre-feet per year. With maximum economic application of conservation measures applied to the land that could remain in production, the unmet water need would be over 350,000 acre-feet. To effectively protect the aquifers, purchase of land or water rights on 178,000 acres of the irrigated cropland would be required. This would not be attainable without the extensive use of condemnation, and would result in a significant adverse impact on the human and socio-economic environment.

Protection of the aquifers by purchase of land or water rights would not preserve irrigated agriculture, maintain the agricultural outputs, or be implementable. An import system would preserve the aquifers, provide national economic development benefits, provide fish and wildlife benefits, and has insignificant adverse impacts. Condemnation of extensive amounts of land is not acceptable and protection of the aquifers by purchase of land or waters rights has no Federal interest.

 

No. Once the water flow exceeds the bank elevation and the river's predetermined flood stage, even pumping at maximum capacity would only result in a small reduction in the river's level.

 

If any access is severed, comparable access acceptable to the landowner will be reestablished or compensation paid. Access points are a project cost. The District will have access only to maintain and operate the water distribution system.

 

The GPADP's on-farm management plans are currently being implemented. In addition, an engineering review of available water sources is being performed to ensure the use of a portion of the White River's flow for irrigation purposes, is valid under current conditions, or whether identifying another water source is necessary. The draft report concluded that the White River is the appropriate source. The state of Arkansas created an oversight committee to provide input and the committee, which included representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nature Conservancy agreed. All environmental compliance activities have been completed and the project is ready for construction.

 

The goal of the District is to establish a system to provide excess-river water for irrigation and stabilize the Grand Prairie's aquifers at a reasonable cost.

 

The White River Irrigation District (WRID) will be purchasing lands, easements and rights of way where required. The District will own the pumping station site as well as the land on which eight major water control structures will be built.

The District will be negotiating with landowners for easements for canals, pipelines and low water weirs. The District is also considering leasing easements at current cash-rent rates. The easements would be perpetual for the life of the project. The District will be flexible in negotiating the amount and form of compensation and is also considering credit toward water purchases as a compensation option.

 

None. The waterfowl hunting season and the irrigation season do not occur at the same time. The project will only pump a minimum amount of water during November, which will be used for flooding rolled rice fields for waterfowl. The pumping station will not operate during December. The amount of pumping in January will be minimal.

 

The rural economy of the Grand Prairie depends on farming and related agribusiness. While there is some non-agriculture related manufacturing along with a small number of service providers, it is agriculture which drives the region's economy.

The general population of the Grand Prairie including the bankers, grocers, service stations, mechanics, equipment and automotive dealers, along with all of the many other small businesses they support, depend on agriculture to ensure their survival.

 

The on-farm water management plan will outline the expected water needs, the layout of the irrigation and drainage system, the plans, designs and cost estimates for the improvements and the sources of irrigation water.

The landowner requests assistance through the Irrigation District office. The District sets the priorities and the NRCS does the planning. The federal cost share will be at least 65 percent.

The farmers will develop the water management plan with assistance from the NRCS. The farmers determine what goes into the plan and if and when it is constructed.

 

The project will not diminish the water quality of the White River and may improve water quality by trapping contaminants.

 

The Arkansas River was studied as a source of irrigation water in the 1980s. The best areas for receiving irrigation water was Bayou Meto, while the best areas for receiving irrigation water from the White River were located within the Grand Prairie region. An engineering review of the project water source has recently been completed. The draft report concluded that the White Rive is the appropriate source. The state of Arkansas created an oversight committee to provide input and the committee, which included representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nature Conservancy agreed. All environmental compliance activities have been completed and the project is ready for construction.

 

The NRCS will assist farmers in determining water needs when the water management plan is developed and make a recommendation. The landowner will make the final management decisions.

 

No. There will be no minimal contractual amount of water that landowners must purchase from the District. For each acre of irrigated land, landowners will have the opportunity to purchase up to 1.5 acre-feet of water. If all available water is not contracted for in the initial sign-up period for irrigation, the District will sell the remainder to landowners who have bought their full allotment and want more, to municipal water systems or other rural water districts.

 

No. There will be no minimal contractual amount of water that landowners must purchase from the District. For each acre of irrigated land, landowners will have the opportunity to purchase up to 1.5 acre-feet of water. If all available water is not contracted for in the initial sign-up period for irrigation, the District will sell the remainder to landowners who have bought their full allotment and want more, to municipal water systems or other rural water districts.

 

Considerations used to determine whether an open canal or a pipeline would be used included: 

  • Topography - Flat topography prohibits the use of pipelines over long distances without pumping, which significantly increases cost
  • Right of way restrictions 
  • Relocation of facilities - The project was designed to minimize major alternations to existing infrastructure and utilities 
  • Development - Existing or proposed future commercial, industrial and residential development
  • Flow volumes - Large flows made the use of pipelines prohibitive both in terms of engineering and cost 
  • Economic - Analysis show the use of canals as the most cost-effective alternative for conveying large flows

A reanalysis of all canals with smaller flows (less than 30 cubic feet per second) is scheduled to be completed in mid-February 2001. Unless there are other overriding factors the majority of these canals are expected to be converted to pipelines.

Ownership was not a consideration in the location of canals and pipelines or a determining factor in whether a canal or pipeline would be used.

 

The project will divert less than two percent of the flow of the White River. During waterfowl season, the project will divert less than one half of one percent of the White River’s seasonal flow.

 

No. The availability of water in the delivery system is depends upon the flow of the White River. There are restrictions on minimum flows in the White River. Water can only be diverted in accordance with state law.

On-farms reservoirs will be used to store water for use when diversion of the White River flow is restricted. When the White River can provide the water necessary for irrigation, imported water should be used or transferred into storage in reservoirs for later use. The diversion system is approximately 87 percent reliable.

The Irrigation District is responsible for the equitable distribution of water to all users throughout the system. There will be a system of checks and balances in place to prohibit excessive withdrawals during periods when the import system cannot meet demand.