A ground-breaking was held last week for Phase I of the Archey Fork Restoration Project at Archey Fork Park in Clinton.

Representatives from Southwestern Energy, the community of Clinton and The Nature Conservancy gathered for the event Friday, June 28. Southwestern has contributed $900,000 for the restoration project.

The Nature Conservancy is working to restore a 3.2-mile stretch of the Upper Little Red River at the confluence of the South Fork and Archey Fork that was straightened and widened in the mid-1980s for flood control. The new restoration is designed to improve habitat while maintaining the flood control values within the existing floodway.

Water quality in the river is threatened by sediment from eroding river banks. This is contributing sediment into Greers Ferry Lake, which provides drinking water to more than 200,000 people as well as significant economic benefits through hydropower and recreation.

Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas, said the project will benefit the community, making it more inviting for people to fish and swim and will improve drinking water for Clinton.

"It will help water quality in Greers Ferry Lake," he said.

Following remarks by Southwestern’s Mark Boling, Simon, community leader Don Richardson and Joy DeClerk, Rivers Restoration Program Director for the Conservancy, attendees participated in a tour of the project. Participants learned about the process and benefits of the restoration.

The restoration strategy is based on the science of natural channel design and will incorporate channel shaping and construction of in-channel rock structures. The goals of the project are to reduce stream bank erosion, restore channel stability, and improve aquatic habitat and water quality while maintaining the flood control role of the existing floodway. Construction will continue through 2014.