Minimum Flows Begin at Arkansas’ Bull Shoals

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BULL SHOALS – Discussions about minimum flows from Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes were first discussed nearly a half century ago. Those initial conversations are coming to fruition as the first minimum flows are now moving through Bull Shoals Dam.

If you’ve fished Arkansas’s world famous tailwaters during periods of no generation, you’ve got some idea of why minimum flow is such an important project.

A celebration of the minimum flows coming through Bull Shoals Dam was held last month. Several people who were instrumental in the project sang the praises of the project. Mike Freeze and Forrest L. Wood who are both former commissioners from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Congressman Mark Pryor, Congressman John Boozman, Clark Hall from Gov. Mike Beebe’s office, Randy Hathaway from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and AGFC Deputy Director Mike Armstrong spoke to the crowd about the minimum flow journey and its benefits.

Bull Shoals and the other dams of the White River system were built for flood control and power generation. Fishing wasn’t mentioned in the congressional acts that launched the dams. But Arkansas’s trout fishing industry has grown to international renown and has become a major economic activity.

The problem? When water flows are non-existent, multiple problems arise, like food production, chiefly aquatic insects, small boat navigation and water temperatures. When there is no generation or flood release, the water flow goes to almost nothing. The only water coming from the dam escapes from small leaks. What the trout fishery needed was an adequate minimum flow for temperature control, food production and angler access.

The Energy and Water Bill of 2006 authorized implementation of White River Minimum Flows on Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes. The project allocates storage space in the lakes to provide small releases when hydropower is not being generated, keeping cold water flowing for downstream trout. Minimum flows have begun from Bull Shoals Dam and should begin in the near future from Norfork Lake.

The AGFC provided relocations or modifications for public and private lake facilities affected by the minimum flows to allow for reasonable continued use of those facilities at both lakes.