Lawmakers heard testimony last week from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission director that about 50 property owners in jeopardy of losing their federal flood insurance if a Clinton landowner does not tear down a dam he was not authorized to build.
In July, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission ordered Dan Eoff, best known for his annual National Chuckwagon Races in Clinton, to hire an engineer to submit plans for tearing down a dam he built on his property last year without permits and in a federally designated flood way.
The 30-foot tall earthen dam is located along a tributary that intermittently flows into the South Fork of the Little Red River in Van Buren County.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said the waterway downstream from the homemade dam is home to two endangered species, the yellowcheek darter and the speckled pocket book mussel.
State Rep. Josh Miller, R-Heber Springs, said Eoff probably was in error when he built the dam, but asked ANRC Director Randy Young if the various federal agencies involved would be willing to reconsider their opposition and work with the landowner to allow him to keep the dam.
Young said he has talked to officials with the EPA, U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and all have expressed an unwillingness to work with Eoff the keep the dam.
“The answer we got back was negative,” Young said. “The one big hangup is the fact that it is located in the flood plain. There’s only one way to deal with that. Either remove it or go out and hire a consulting engineer to redo the hydraulics and hydrology and hope — and the people I have talked to say you can’t prove it — but hope you can prove that it doesn’t cause the elevation of the 100-year flood to raise.”
Eoff has filed a complaint in Van Buren County Circuit Court asking for a review of the commission’s decision. He also has filed a federal lawsuit against the EPA challenging an administrative compliance order.
Young said during a joint meeting of the Senate and House state agencies and governmental affairs committees Sept. 4 that there is evidence the dam is seeping and that state dam inspectors have no idea how the dam was built. He also said the dam could potentially crumble during a significant flood.
Eoff has been told the dam must be permitted by ANCR, but also must satisfy the permitting requirements of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the the Van Buren County flood plain administrator.
The commission said Eoff has until Oct. 1 to begin removing the dam at his expense or face fines. Estimates to remove the dam and replace vegetation are as high as $750,000.