DIERKS, Ark. (Arkansas Game and Fish Commission) – According to Tim Burnley, Stream Habitat Program supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, many manmade low-water crossings, bridges and dams can impede the movements of fish to spawning areas, especially smaller fish species. Thanks to a partnership with Weyerhaeuser, one such dilapidated low-water crossing was removed to help promote fish movement and improve safety for recreational floaters and anglers in southwest Arkansas.

The crossing, which was on the Saline River below Dierks Lake, not only presented dangers to those on the water, but was in such poor condition it was unsafe for vehicular traffic as well. The blockage caused by the structure also caused a major restriction for stream species along that stretch of the river and the feeder creeks to it in the watershed upstream.

“Thanks to an EPA-319 grant through the Natural Resources Division of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, we were able to remove this crossing that acted as a dam and rehabilitate the banks on either side,” Burnley said.

Native shrubs and trees were planted and riprap was placed to prevent shoreline erosion along the old roadbed and restore the riparian area.

“As part of this grant, all potential fish passage barriers in the Lower Little River watershed will be surveyed and prioritized, and at least three additional barriers will be removed,” Burnley said. “Weyerhaeuser’s Southern Environmental Team was able to visit the construction site. They also visited several other barriers in the watershed and watched as a barrier survey was conducted leading to a productive discussion. Projects and partnerships like this one are vital to conserving our waters and protecting our native species for years to come.”

The barrier removal opened up at least 25 river miles of connected habitat below Dierks Lake to native aquatic species, and many more miles can be restored through continued work on the watershed.