The Upper Illinois River Watershed lies in Benton and Washington counties, as well as a small portion of Crawford County, in northwest Arkansas. The Illinois River originates near Hogeye, Arkansas, approximately 15 miles southwest of Fayetteville. The river flows westerly, crossing the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas and into Oklahoma, 5 miles south of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, near Watts, Oklahoma. Land use in the UIRW is diverse with land use characteristics in 2006 identified as approximately 46% pasture, 41% forest, and 13% urban. The watershed is characterized by rapidly growing urban centers from south Fayetteville to Rogers and Bentonville, Arkansas, in the headwaters, with more rural areas to the west, along the Oklahoma border. The Illinois River and its major tributaries in Arkansas (Osage Creek, Clear Creek, Baron Fork, and the Muddy Fork) exhibit a range of conditions, from areas with dense riparian forest buffers illustrating exceptional beauty and ecological value, to areas of exposed and eroding stream banks with no vegetated buffers.
The Illinois River and its tributaries have many designated uses set forth by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission (APCEC), including fisheries, primary and secondary contact recreation, drinking water supply, and agricultural and industrial water supply. However, approximately 10% of stream reaches have been cited as not meeting these designated uses due to impairments. The goal of this watershed-based plan is to improve water quality in the Illinois River and its tributaries so that all waters meet their designated uses both now and in the future.
The watershed-based management strategy which considers watershed land use, water quality conditions, and existing and potential pollutant sources, has been approved and accepted by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and Region 6 EPA. The management strategies for the Upper Illinois River Watershed were developed based on water quality conditions at the sub-watershed level. Based on the identified priorities, recommended best management practices specific to each priority sub-watershed should be implemented to improve water and watershed environmental quality. A suite of best management practices (BMPs) is recommended. A summary of four major categories of BMPs include Forest Management, Pasture Management, Unpaved Roads Maintenance, and Urban Management. Since watershed processes and systems are dynamic, adaptive management is the best means of achieving sustainable watershed management. Stakeholders should expect the implementation of this management plan to be a cooperative, evolving, ongoing process.
We would like to thank the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, EPA Region 6, and the Walton Family Foundation for their financial support for the development of this plan. We would also like to thank Dr. Kent Thornton and Christina Laurin of FTN Associates for their work and leadership, among many contributors, in the development of this watershed-based plan for the Upper Illinois River Watershed.
Please click below to download a copy of the 2012 Upper Illinois River Watershed Based Plan.