Maumelle, Arkansas: Protecting Wetlands and Sustaining Urban Growth
Maumelle, AR, saw a 9% increase in urban land cover, as well as an equal decline of forested lands, between 1999 and 2006 due to development in the White Oak Bayou Flood Plain. Local planners and government officials then sought a solution to protect the environment while allowing for appropriate growth. Ultimately the city chose to create a comprehensive plan to manage wetland resources, ensuring the ecological integrity of the wetlands was preserved, while allowing for continued sustainable urban growth. This comprehensive plan is known as the White Oak Bayou Wetland Management Plan.
The city of Maumelle received a Wetland Program Development Grant (WPDG) from the EPA to develop a guidance document for the development of the Wetland Management Plan. In 2009, the city received another WPDG for a pilot study to perform Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) functional wetland assessments utilizing previous HGM work developed by the State of Arkansas’s Multi Agency Wetland Planning Team, which also used EPA funds. In 2013, the EPA provided a new grant to Maumelle to assist with the development of a watershed coordinator position for overseeing the White Oak Bayou Wetlands Management Plan. Once approved by city officials, the plan will serve not only as a guide for protecting and restoring wetlands, but will be the foundation for development of a Regional General Permit by the Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District, specifically for use in the Bayou Watershed. The permit will guide and expedite development in the area while providing protection to the sensitive environment.
Several other efforts have grown from the initial project. In 2010 a technical advisory committee was formed to provide scientific assistance; a steering committee of stakeholders was formed to guide the development of the wetland management plan; a monthly newsletter is published with updates about the management plan and general wetland education; a graduate student from the University of Central Arkansas is doing her masters’ thesis work in the watershed; wetland talks and tours have educated the public on the importance of wetlands; and the senior-level environmental science majors at the University of Central Arkansas are using the watershed as the focus of their capstone environmental science course.
To date, approximately 1500 acres of wetlands have been delineated and assessed for function and condition. These wetlands support a diverse plant community which in turn supports a diverse wildlife community, also store and abate floodwaters, store and export carbon, and cycle nutrients between living and non-living components of the ecosystem. The city will monitor the water quality in runoff entering and exiting wetlands as a measure of its efforts to protect wetlands and to educate the public to the water quality function and value of wetlands. The city has also entered into a partnership with the state for developing a watershed-based mitigation bank for impacts occurring in the White Oak Bayou Watershed.