The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission last week ordered a local landowner to tear down his dam.
A standing-room-only crowd filled the Clinton Municipal Airport meeting room for the almost six-hour hearing July 17 to determine what must be done about a dam that is close to 30 feet high and was constructed in a federally-designated floodway.
Landowner Dan Eoff had the dam erected in July 2012. He did so without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to ANRC lawyer Deanna Ray.
Van Buren County floodplain manager David Britton told the commission that he wrote a letter in August 2012 instructing Eoff to remove the dam and explaining the permitting process. Britton wrote that the decision was "easy" because the dam was in a floodway.
Britton said last week that Eoff attorney Kent Tester came to his office to look at maps and a county ordinance after the letter. He said Tester requested some time.
Britton said, under a county ordinance, fines of $500 a day could be imposed, but, he said, the county is just interested in removal of the dam.
An engineer hired by Eoff told the board that it could cost as much as $700,000-$750,000 for the work it would take to bring down the dam and revegetate the area. Crafton Tull and Associates’ Tom Hopper told the commissioners that when he inspected the dam he found that it was seeping water and there was notable erosion in some areas.
Several commission engineers testified, including Jon Sweeney who will be in charge of overseeing the dam removal.
ANRC lawyers said the dam puts the county in jeopardy of losing coverage in the National Flood Insurance Program, and a Health Department official testified about turbidity numbers and what might happen to the county’s water supply if the dam failed.
At the end of the meeting, the commission accepted all of its staff’s recommendations on removing the structure. Eoff was ordered to hire an engineering firm to submit a plan for removing the dam and to show significant progress by Oct. 1 or be fined $10,000.
A lawyer for Eoff said everyone agreed that the dam should come down, but, he said, the ANRC is punishing Eoff and trying to bankrupt him.
"It didn’t take professional engineers to build it and it won’t take professional engineers to get it down," said attorney Chuck Banks.
Eoff is best known in the county and beyond for his annual National Chuckwagon Races that bring thousands of enthusiasts to the area over the Labor Day weekend.
Natural Resources Commissioner Don Richardson recused himself from taking part in the hearing because he lives in Clinton and has known Eoff for years.