Entry ID2533
Friends of Reservoirs Member/Group Sponsoring the ProjectFriends of Lake Ouachita/Corps of Engineers
Project Leader Contact InformationJoseph Bailey
Phone(501) 282-4370
EmailEmail hidden; Javascript is required.
Address1424 Blakely Dam Road
Arkansas 71968
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Project Information
Reservoir NameLake Ouachita
Google Maps Locationlakeouachita.org
Please describe the project objective(s).

Lake Ouachita was impounded in 1952 and is operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The lake lies within the Ouachita mountains and has a watershed of 1,105 square miles, most of which is within the Ouachita National Forest. At conservation pool, the lake covers 40,000 acres and has an average depth of 51 feet. Pool levels are variable and typically fluctuate 10-15 feet throughout the year. Lake Ouachita is considered a low productivity reservoir with a Trophic State Index of 37 (ADEQ unpublished 2017). The main purpose for the construction of Blakely Dam was to provide hydropower and to be used as a flood control structure to minimize flood damage downstream. Other purposes for the construction of Lake Ouachita was to provide recreation to the public and to preserve/manage natural resources. The USACE manages many recreational areas and concession areas that provide picnicking, camping, swimming, hiking, and many other activities. Fishing and hunting are also very popular sports that thousands of visitors enjoy each year. Sport fish in Lake Ouachita are managed and sampled by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) under the authority of Amendment 35 to the Arkansas Constitution. Lake Ouachita supports a diverse fish community including major sportfish such as black bass, crappie, bream, and catfish as well as Striped Bass and Walleye. Since the mid-1950s, Lake Ouachita has received regular stockings via fish truck and utilization of the Lake Ouachita Nursery Pond. The nursery pond is 20 surface acres and located on the west side of the lake. Since 2007 the nursery pond has been on a three-year rotation of bass, crappie, and walleye. Many fish are kept by anglers for food; however the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has a fish consumption advisory due to mercury. Species affected include Largemouth Bass, White Bass, and Striped Bass. Habitat consists mainly of aquatic vegetation, rocks, and standing timber. Major aquatic plant species include Hydrilla, Coontail, Water Willow, watermilfoils and Button Bush. Hydrilla was first discovered in Ouachita in the late 1990s and by 2003 it covered an estimated 10,000 acres. In response to this rapidly spreading vegetation, the USACE began introducing Pakistani Flies (Hydrellia Pakistani) to help with the control of Hydrilla. Pakistani Flies are species-specific and feed exclusively on Hydrilla. In 2008, the abundance of all aquatic vegetation rapidly declined and by 2009 only small areas of vegetation remained. Pakistani Flies are known to have a “topping effect” on Hydrilla, so it’s very unlikely they were responsible for such a decline in biomass. Many other factors are believed to have played a major in the decline of vegetation. These factors include high pool levels of turbid water, pool fluctuations, and cold weather. The USACE began planting Vallisneria from 2011 until 2014. This was to help promote native vegetation establishment since Hydrilla was no longer occupying these areas. Little success was observed partially due to natural aquatic herbivores including carp and turtles. Beginning in 2016, there was a noticeable reemergence of aquatic vegetation (Hydrilla, Coontail and Eurasian Milfoil). During 2017 dense mats of Hydrilla were observed on the northeast and central portions of the lake. As of 2021, there are still some dense mats of Hydrilla in these portions of the lake, but are serving as fish habitat and not creating any known negative impacts.
Like many reservoirs, Lake Ouachita has seasonal and sometime long-term water level fluctuations. These fluctuations differences vary and often are a difference of 10-15 feet. The lake level changes generally occur over elevation contours that was once uplands but are now artificially submerged under water. These uplands have soils, slopes, and seed banks that are not adept to the water fluctuations like a natural flood plain. Over the years wave action from wind and boat traffic have eroded the banks resulting in the loss of vegetation and other natural woody structures along the shoreline that would have been beneficial to the fisheries habitat. Now many areas along the shoreline and the shallows have little to no natural woody structures.
Cypress trees are native to Arkansas and are one of the few tree species that can survive along the shoreline with the fluctuating water level. The Cypress tree root systems can reduce shoreline erosion and provide structure. The Cypress trees also provide a thermal refuge through shade in the summer and holding in heat through its root systems in the winter that is beneficial to the fish populations.
Lake Ouachita has had success with Cypress tree planting in the past. In the early 1980’s hundreds of smaller cypress trees were planted around Lake Ouachita. In one spot in particular the Cypress trees have thrived. A small narrow island that is often underwater called Bird Island now has a large grove of thriving Cypress trees. Many local anglers know that these trees benefit and attract fish around the island. Bird Island is more well known as its name is derived as a roost for thousands of Purple Martins during their annual migration.
During the construction of Blakely Mtn. Dam and the creation of Lake Ouachita some of the future flood plain’s standing timber was logged or bulldozed into piles and burned creating areas with little to know structure on the lakebed. In most areas however, the standing timber was left in place creating vast stump fields. These stump fields provided great natural fish structures that sustained a vibrant fish population. Lake Ouachita is aging though and as a result the standing timber is deteriorating and resulting in widespread loss of underwater structure.

Please describe the project methods. Will the product be used in conjunction with existing habitat restoration efforts on the reservoir? Will the product supplement natural brush, rock, or other materials being added to the reservoir?

A. Cypress Tree Planting:
The goal of planting cypress trees around Lake Ouachita is to recreate the success of Bird Island. Several factors will be considered when planting the cypress trees to achieve the fisheries management goals and the survival rate of the planted cypress trees.
a. Location: The tree planting sites will be selected based on their location to the lake, elevation, and soil type.
• The location to the lake is in refence to areas that is in the greatest need and/or has the potential for additional benefits. A side benefit of the cypress trees on Bird Island is increased boater safety. The terrain under the water of Lake Ouachita varies greatly and randomly. The strip of land that is Bird Island was once a hilltop ridge. When the lake was created this ridge became an underwater boating hazard in the middle of the lake. The cypress trees that are established on the island also functions like a natural hazardous shallow water buoy. The presence of a grove of trees in the middle of the lake alert boaters to the sudden change in water depth and to be cautious around the island.
With Lake Ouachita’s 200 plus islands, there are many islands that become boating hazards with the fluctuating lake levels. Many of these islands have little to no vegetation along its shoreline so that they become very difficult to see the hazards just below the surface of the water. Planting and getting cypress trees established in these locations would benefit the boater safety and enhance the scenic beauty by no longer needing actual hazardous water buoys in these locations.
• Elevation will be a key factor for site selection for tree planting. Sites need to be selected so that the trees will be close enough to the water but not so close that as the lake level fluctuates will cause the trees to be fully submerged and not survive. Need to find areas with similar elevations and topography as Bird Island.
• Soil type will need to be considered as well for the best chances for tree survival.
b. Tree type, size, and planting techniques:
• Choosing the right type of tree for the specified environment location. Cypress tress can not only survive in wet water fluctuating areas, but they can thrive.
• In past tree planting projects, the survivability of planted trees increases with the size of the tree. The increased size of tree getting planted, the greater chance of survival and getting established. The trees will be secured from local nurseries with a minimum height of 5ft.
• Plant the trees in holes hug out to the appropriate depth based on the size of the root ball. Add at least one full bag of fertilizer to the hole before lowering the root ball into the hole. Add the loose dirt to the sides and compact the ground to secure the tree in place.
B. Natural and Artificial Fish Structure
a. Natural: Natural fish structures will come from available inland Cedar and Hickory trees with less than a 6” diameter located near the lake shoreline. The trees will then be attached to concrete blocks using steel cable. The trees will be dragged off the bank and sunk at designation locations to provide the fish attraction structure.
b. Artificial: Artificial fish structure will be constructed in the form of mossback artificial structure. Mossback are constructed using rough texture material to allocate a faster approach to vegetation involvement.
c. The structure will be embedded with additional cedar, Hickory trees cut from the shoreline to act as a provided embedment with the mossback artificial structure to enhance benefit.

Will state fish and wildlife agency staff be directly involved in the project? How so (planning, site selection, participation in installation)? Is there an associated lake or habitat management plan that states the need for structural habitat enhancement?

The primary selection base will be coordinated with FOLO & AGFC partnership representation in coordination with COE management objectives.
Habitat improvement based on the loss of vegetative state that once presented itself along the Lake Ouachita shoreline.

List the species that the project is expected to benefit:

Crappie, Bass, Bream, mossback vegetation habitat enhancement.

How do you plan to conduct outreach and advertise the project? (Examples: on-site signage, press releases, websites, message boards)

Facebook, maps for the public at our local office, signage presentation at the site, and GPS coordination upon project completion for manipulation.

Partnership and Budget
Does the project involve one or more youth groups?Yes
Please list all partners involved in the project:
Partner Name Type of Partner Cash Contribution In-Kind Contribution (Description) In-Kind Value ($)
Friends of Lake Ouachita Friends of Reservoirs member $500
Partner List Upload (If you're having trouble with the table above)Partnership-Grant-Lake-Hamilton-fishing-team.docx