LITTLE ROCK — A three-member selection committee has 65 applications to sort through after people from across Pulaski County responded to a call to serve on the Lake Maumelle Watershed Stakeholder Task Force, a group that will review Pulaski County’s zoning ordinance for the watershed.
"There is no pre-determined number of members that will be selected for the task force, but the selection committee aims to ensure a broad and balanced selection to represent the range of stakeholder interests in the watershed," said Tom Riley, director of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Public Policy Center.
Research has shown that 30 or fewer people make for more effective working groups, Riley said, citing the work of Vaughn Grisham, former director of the McLean Institute of Community Development at the University of Mississippi.
The Cooperative Extension Service is involved with the task force at the request of the Pulaski County Quorum Court. The lake has become a source of contention in recent years as Pulaski County leaders try to figure out the best way to protect the lake’s water quality while respecting property owner rights.
Central Arkansas Water, which owns Lake Maumelle, adopted a watershed management plan for the lake in 2007 after several years of public workshops. However, the utility doesn’t have regulatory authority and has been working with Pulaski County administration and the Quorum Court to turn the management plan into county zoning laws.
In April, Quorum Court members approved a one-year moratorium on most development in the watershed to allow time for the independent taskforce to organize and review the new zoning regulations and the concerns of Pulaski County residents. The watershed crosses into Saline and Perry counties, but the zoning regulations are for Pulaski County only.
Lake Maumelle’s 8,900 acres supplies water to about 65 percent of the population in central Arkansas. In addition to being a water supply, the lake area provides many recreational uses for boating, fishing, hiking and hunting.
Riley has been asked to facilitate the task force’s efforts, but first the three-member selection committee must review the 65 stakeholder applications.
The committee, comprised of Freeman McKindra, Sr., Christian Olson and Debbie Willhite, will review the applications independently and then meet to finalize the task force. A meeting date has not been set. McKindra is serving at the request of the Cooperative Extension Service.
Olson was chosen as a Republican representative, and Willhite as a Democratic representative after the Quorum Court deferred the committee selections to the county parties.
Tyler Denton, the Pulaski County justice of the peace who created the task force, has said he would like for the group to start meeting in July. Recommendations from the task force will be forwarded to the county planning board and the Quorum Court.