Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TOP STORY >>Protecting area water source

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

With the most critical Deltic Timber land at the Lake Maumelle drinking water reservoir condemned and paid for, staff and lawyers from Central Arkansas Water have turned their attention to crafting a protection agreement with Rick Ferguson and other Waterview Estates landowners to serve as a model for future development in the watershed, which provides water to this area.

Ferguson wants to develop about 300 acres close to the lake. Between them, Ferguson and Deltic own large portions of the 80,000-acre watershed. Deltic had wanted to build mini-estates on 700 acres close to the lake. Following a long fight, CAW condemned the land and agreed to pay Deltic $8 million.

Lawyers for both CAW and Ferguson told the water commissioners Thursday that their agreement is 95 percent completed, with four points left to be resolved, two of them quite minor. The current schedule calls for CAW’s Bruce McMath and Ferguson’s Hal Kemp to hammer out those final details in time for a special May 10 CAW board meeting, with a public meeting probably during the week of May 21.

That way board members would have time to study the final proposal before acting upon it June 6. Jim McKenzie of Metroplan gave the commissioners a seven-page outline of the agreement he helped craft with the help of the attorneys, the actual agreement being nearly two inches thick. “Ferguson paid a lot to lawyers and engineers toward creating this model,” he told the group.

The agreement is a 20-year memorandum of understanding that lays out the process for developing the appropriate lands, for resolving conflicts and for overseeing the process and enforcing its conditions. One important aspect to Ferguson is that CAW not develop or allow to be develop other nearby lands in competition with the current landowners.

One of the most important physical aspects of the agreement, which is ultimately intended to keep the water in this important drinking water reservoir clean, is a concrete diversion ditch that will direct runoff away from the reservoir.
The Waterview landowners must agree to execute a conservation easement on lands taken in condemnation action that haven’t been removed from the watershed by means of the ditch, and also requires CAW to pay Waterview $1 million to settle its lawsuit.

In other action, the board approved a resolution authorizing a bond issue not to exceed $18.1 million.
The bond will be retired from water use payments. First a public hearing must be scheduled.