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“Central Arkansas Water Plans Historically Large Acquisition of Over 2,000 Acres in Lake Maumelle Watershed” – The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Central Arkansas Water has announced plans to acquire over 2,000 acres of land in the Lake Maumelle watershed in an effort to protect the area’s drinking water supply. The utility will purchase the two tracts from timberland owner PotlatchDeltic, marking the largest single purchase of property from one owner in the lake’s history. The cost of the acquisition is $9.7 million plus closing costs.

The larger tract, known as the Falls Tract, consists of 1,966 acres in Perry County and encompasses 8.5 miles of the Maumelle River and its headwater streams. The property is significant for the protection of water quality and also offers picturesque views. The Falls Tract has been a target for acquisition since the utility created scoring systems for property in the watershed in 2014-2015.

In addition to the Falls Tract, Central Arkansas Water will also acquire a 57-acre tract in Pulaski County near the Maumelle River and the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. This purchase will increase the buffer for both the trail system and the river.

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The U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program will provide $6 million in grant funding for the acquisitions, while the utility will use proceeds from 2020 “green bonds” and budget allocations from the watershed protection fee to cover the remaining costs. After accounting for the grant funding, the total cost per acre to Central Arkansas Water will be roughly $1,829.

Central Arkansas Water customers on the typical five-eighths-inch-diameter meter are charged $0.90 per month under the current structure of the watershed protection fee, which first took effect in 2009. Members of the utility’s board of commissioners approved the acquisitions in a voice vote with no dissent during a meeting on Nov. 16.