The awesome responsibility of the Ouachita River
(First in a four-part series this week)
Protecting the great resource we know as the Ouachita River is a great responsibility that requires all types of groups and individuals working together. Let me say this right up front: there are a lot of good folks that work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But there are also some who don’t see the woods and waters the same as most folks. Some don’t think what the Corps does is any of our business. They have been known to work on plans and even projects without much public input — or knowledge.
Maybe it’s because they don’t think about including everybody. Or maybe they just think they have a “higher purpose” pursuing a public good that not all the public feels is really that good. All this said to address this situation that occurred last week with the Ouachita River:
The Corps has to do maintenance work and frankly, has done a good job maintaining the Ouachita River for shipping and commerce, all the while benefitting fisheries and wildlife in the process. Last week plans to lower the river well below normal summer levels to work on the Columbia Lock and Dam were not publicized. They work was surely necessary, but informing the public should have been a key component. There are a lot of reasons why it should have been. But only after some 50,000 people had gotten involved on Facebook because one individual in the know saw how important it was, did the Corps offer a short public news release of “plans” already well into being carried out.
In case you missed that, you can catch up here:
There is a point to all this. It’s mainly for you younger folks. When it comes to the outdoors and the bountiful God-given resources of this area like the Ouachita River, never take them for granted. Keep a watchful eye, and if necessary, a bold attitude to ask questions and realize that everybody doesn’t feel the same way you do. At the top of the list here is being well informed. That’s why so many people were concerned about this latest action. The work had to be done. But the fact that the Corps didn’t tell the public ahead of time was wrong.
Being of the Baby Boomer era (that means I’m an old man), I feel it is important for people to know about a little history on the river. You may not know it, but the Ouachita River was the target of a massive Corps project nearly four decades ago that would have turned it into a glorified ditch — cutting nearly than 100 bends in the beautiful river for starters. That’s not an exaggeration. It was pretty much kept a secret throughout planning, funding and initial implementation. Against all odds, when the public found out, the people and the river won. Just four years ago, we published a series of three articles about this project. I hope you’ll read it and dedicate yourself to making sure the river is protected and groups like the Corp are reminded that the public has a right to know.
And although I’m using the Corps as the main example, that includes EVERY governing body, private entity or group that can have a negative impact on the Ouachita River. Be vigilant. This river is important for recreation and our economy. We have to maintain a balance and protect both. And it’s not that hard if we all stay informed .