1st FOLEA Public meeting
December 5, 2015
Andrew Yung is the District #6 Fisheries Biologist Supervisor for the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. 

The crowd at the FOLEA Public meeting December 5th learned that restructuring within the Game & Fish organization has caused Lake Erling to now be located in District #6. Andrew would be helping manage the fisheries for Lake Erling at this time, but AGRED has so far been unwilling to cooperate with the Commission. 

Each year Game & Fish has conducted studies into the health and populations and the possibility of mercury contamination etc. of different species of fish. Andrew gave a vivid explanation of the mercury testing process in bass and catfish. 

This year is different. Game & Fish has offered to enter into a contract with AGRED to take care of the fisheries in Lake Erling if AGRED would honor its commitments to the public in the manner IP had done since the lake was built. 

For several years the catfish population has been expanding on a large scale while the size of the individual fish was getting smaller. Test methods used to capture fish for testing, which in the past produced 25 fish at a time, most recently pulled in 350 fish per sampling. 

In order to balance the number of fish to the available food source Game & Fish considered increasing the daily limits and opening the lake to a certain degree for commercial fishing. These plans have been approved by the Commission and were set to be implemented in January 2015. However, AGRED has chosen not to enter into a contract with the Commission.

Question:Do Cormorants impact Lake Erling’s crappie population?

Answer:Shad is the main diet of most species of fish. Cormorants eat enormous amounts of shad. One bird was reportedly found with a large fish he had swallowed that almost filled the bird’s entire body cavity. 

Cormorants have a negative impact on the fish population. It’s difficult to manage the balance of a resource when factors exist that you cannot control. Some states like South Carolina opened seasons on Cormorants. Two hundred fifty thousand birds were killed in an effort to save the fish populations. 

It is possible to get permission to address a Cormorant invasion, but because they are on a federal list, that task is extremely difficult.

Although AGRED has chosen not to cooperate with Game & Fish on the management of the fisheries of Lake Erling, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and it’s Agents still control and enforce the hunting and fishing laws on the lake.

Barbara Pearson is a Science Educator at Columbia Christian School. She was also a guest speaker at our public meeting December 5th. Barbara updated the crowd on the water quality testing program sponsored by Friends of Lake Erling. 

Barbara and her CCS eighth grade earth science students are currently using Lake Erling as an open classroom to enhance their project based learning curriculum.

The fresh water project includes water quality testing of temperature, pH, conductivity, turbidity and dissolved oxygen. The data is shared with FOLEA, clarifying that its use is for the students, and is a long term project. The data is for a comparative study and can be used as a baseline for future testing. 

In the event of drastic changes in the samples, CCS can collaborate with the SAU Research Station for Accrediting Testing. CCS also collaborates with the SAU STEM Center and Biology Professor Pablo Bacon, to share findings in the macro and micro biology samples used in the water quality parameters. Professor Bacon’s specialty is invertebrates, and he is particularly interested in the Louisiana Pearl mussel, which was last seen in Dorcheat around the 1980’s.

While cataloging their mussel finds from lake sediment samples, the students learned about the “Arkansas Pearl Rush” of the late 1800’s. Perhaps they will rediscover some of Arkansas’s fresh water pearl species, whether invasive or indigenous to Arkansas waters.

The students’ water quality research has extended to a study of the Mississippi River watershed basin and its effect on the Barataria Terrebonne Estuary and the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

Studying the interaction of climate, earthquakes and volcanoes, the long term effects on the ocean will eventually bring the students’ research back to Mammoth Cave National Park. Once there, collaboration will provide research on the cave systems, ground water, endangered species, and a “Citizen Science Project” sponsored by the National Park System. 

In 1997 Becky Barnes began her service to the people of Lafayette County as a worker in the Assessor’s office. After ten years of dedicated service and on the job experience she was elected by the residents of Lafayette County to be their County Tax Assessor.

Becky covered three key issues at our meeting on Saturday 12/05/2015. It was obvious from Becky’s presentation that she sincerely desired the result of this information to help reduce the hassle required, for Lafayette County residents, in order to fulfill their tax reporting obligations. 

1.Vehicle registrations can be handled over the telephone unless they are first time assessments.

2.Land assessments can be handled the same way if nothing has changed since the last assessment, new deed etc.

3.When someone leases property they need to provide a copy of the lease to the Tax Assessor’s office for filing. 

That’s the only avenue the Assessor’s office has to direct tax billing statements to the responsible party. Failure to notify the Assessor’s office could lead to future billings continuing to be sent to the wrong person (lessor). The lessor may ignore the bill because they realize it’s no longer their responsibility. This can eventually leave the person leasing the land to owe multiple years taxes before the situation is resolved. Becky asks that you let the Assessor’s Office help you prevent this situation from happening to you.

Becky welcomes your questions or concerns. Her office phone is 870-921-4808.

Lafayette County Judge Mike Rowe had an enthusiastic message for the crowd at the, Friends of Lake Erling, PUBLIC meeting on Saturday December 5th. 

We were reminded that Lake Erling is recognized as a valuable resource for Lafayette County. Activity on the lake is responsible for making a certain impact on the local economy. While managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish commission the lake came to be known as an excellent fishing lake, drawing fishermen from far and wide. The public has always enjoyed many other benefits of our lake that draw people from near and far. Those benefits include hunting, recreational water sports, boating, swimming and simply sight-seeing. 

One initiative Judge Rowe is personally committed to is the ongoing effort to seek out industry that could be drawn to the area by the availability of the County’s abundant local water supply. 

Such an investment in the future of Lafayette County would provide our young people throughout the County an alternative to being forced to leave home in order to search for employment. 

Keeping our young people local would help grow the County. The increase in local income would help strengthen the local economy. The additional increase to the County’s tax base could help create more local job opportunity and help improve the County’s ability to provide services to the residents.

Judge Rowe spoke of other investments in the County’s future such as researching opportunities for rural sewer districts, not only to improve sanitation, but also enhance property value. He explained the difficulty sometimes encountered when seeking grants in today’s economy, but he is experienced in the process and diligent in his pursuit of funding.

The question was asked, “When will the Corps of Engineers get involved in the situation on Lake Erling”?

Judge Rowe informed us that he has been in communication with the Corps since shortly after IP donated to AGRED the portion of the lakes bottom that IP owned and the land IP owned around the lake. Judge Rowe has so far conferenced with six of the Corps attorneys, and has recently received correspondence on their progress toward resolving the issue of unrestricted public access to the lake. 

At this time the Corps has initiated meetings with AGRED to work through the contractual obligations the Corps and International Paper Co. failed to conclude during the sixty three years since the 1952 Act of Exchange was implemented. When AGRED signed the 2013 agreement to assume IP’s contractual obligations, they joined the ranks of those who have failed to act to fulfill those obligations. More meetings will be forthcoming until an acceptable result can be achieved.

Judge Rowe went on to say that there were promises made and legal rights granted to the public as third party beneficiaries to the Act of Exchange. He made it clear that he will ensure those legal obligations in the Act of Exchange are recognized and fulfilled and the promises made to the public by those involved in the Act of Exchange would be promises kept. 

The question was asked, “Is anyone else involved in the effort to resolve the issues on Lake Erling”?

Judge Rowe assured us that in his opinion everyone who can help or needs to know is in the loop, all the way from Lafayette County to Washington DC. He said the situation is being monitored closely by people attentive to the needs of Southwest Arkansas.

Judge Rowe welcomed questions and reminded us all that his door is always open to the residents of Lafayette County.

We would like to take this opportunity to provide you with an overview of the Friends of Lake Erling’s First Annual PUBLIC Meeting.

The Taylor VFW Post provided their facility for our meeting. They furnished snacks and coffee, and offered other refreshments. They would like to welcome public support of their organization through attendance at Thursday night BINGO, and welcome membership and participation of all veterans and their spouses. Please check them out; they’re great folks with a great cause.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Department and The City of Taylor provided traffic officers to assist with public safety in the event of parking overflow onto US 371.

Guest speakers included Lafayette County Judge Mike Rowe, Lafayette County Tax Assessor Becky Barnes, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Fisheries Biologist Andrew Yung, and Science Educator Barbara Pearson of Columbia Christian Schools. 

The folks who attended received more, (in person); than we can adequately do justice to in a single Facebook recap.

We had the opportunity to hear first-hand from sincere, dedicated public servants, and experts in the area of fisheries, biology, and facts unique to the history of Arkansas water.

Hearing how our young people are being introduced to research and conservation of the most important resource on their planet was a positive and enlightening experience.

Donations can be mailed to:
PO Box 567
Taylor, AR 71861