by Max Brantley
Spitzer comments: "I can assure you that this matter is important to your readers. Especially fishermen, considering that more large predators in the system = larger gamefish."
Residents of Arkansas should know that Conway Corporation intends to build a sewage treatment plant on Tupelo Bayou by the Arkansas River, which could be detrimental to the largest known population of alligator gar in Arkansas. This fascinating creature (300 million years old, capable of reaching lengths of ten feet) is threatened throughout its range and its status is listed as imperiled, vulnerable, and substantially declining in the state. State and Federal agencies across the South are currently coordinating on management plans to preserve and propagate this species, which is advantageous to ecosystem stability. It is not known how important this particular spawning ground is to our local gene pool of alligator gar, but an environmental impact study is definitely in order considering the delicate reproduction of this fish, which requires a convergence of ideal water temperature and sustained floodwater levels for spawns to take. US Fish and Wildlife, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and UCA biologists have been studying this local population for years and agree that an assessment is needed. It may be that this area is not vital to sustaining this population, and it may be possible for Conway Corporation to develop an environmentally friendly treatment plant. Another complication, however, is that sewage plants purify wastewater with estrogen, which has a history of turning male fish into female fish. This can directly affect population growth.
Conway Corporation is currently collecting comments from the community for the next ten days regarding this project. I’d like to encourage everyone with an interest in conserving this important natural resource to write to CEO Richard Arnold / Conway Corporation / P.O. Box 99 / Conway, AR 72033 as soon as possible and request that this matter be seriously studied before any construction begins.
Prof. Mark Spitzer