Important Bird Areas

Flint Creek Power Plant

Arkansas

Flint Creek Power Plant consists of approximately 1600 ac., including a 500 ac cooling lake for plant operations, two 15-ac ash ponds, 100 ac for the power plant, and 200 ac that are leased for farming or grazing. Approximately 150 ac below the dam are strictly wildlife habitat comprised of mixed hardwood forest, open fields, and permanent marsh. At the north end of the lake is the popular Eagle Watch area comprising 65 ac created in 1999 and open to the public for bird watching. The Eagle Watch area is part of an environmental stewardship program. A trail and pavilion were built in 1999 to give the public a place to view the eagles at a safe distance. The area is used by local schools and organizations for education, and is also used for habitat enhancement for other wildlife. More than 50 Bald Eagles forage on the lake, although they prefer the north end for perching and loafing. This area has many dead trees and is relatively secluded. The lake is unique because the water temperature never drops below about 60 degrees in winter due to warm water discharge from the power plant. The ash ponds support a variety of waterbirds. The lake is managed by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and is open to the public, although Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) owns the lake.

Ornithological Summary

This site attracts large numbers of wintering Bald Eagles. The site???s public accessibility and popularity also make it important for education. The year round warm water lake and ash ponds attract a variety of waterbirds including waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and marshbirds.

Conservation Issues

The greatest potential threat is power plant expansion. Population growth in northwest Arkansas will increase the demand for electricity. Habitat loss is another potential threat as adjacent landowners sell their farms to developers for subdivisions. A recent drought affected some habitats. Green ash, persimmon, and blackberry grow in the prairie areas due to natural succession. Non-native plant species on the property include a growing number of mimosa and tree-of-heaven populations as well as thistle. Boats might disturb the eagles and other waterbirds, however boats are not allowed in the Eagle Watch area. Agricultural practices, disease, and cowbird parasitism represent minor potential problems.

Ownership

Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) owns the entire site. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission manages the lake for fishing.

Habitat

500-acre manmade cooling lake for the power plant provides fishing opportunities. The north end of lake is 10-20 acres of mud flats depending on lake elevation. Below the dam and also at ash pond discharge point are 5 acres of marsh consisting mainly of cattails, black willows, and button bushes. The prairie areas consist of bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, Johnson grass, fescue, lespedeza, and blackberry. Half the leased land is used for grazing cattle and half is used for growing soybeans. The woodland areas are mainly oaks (black, white, and post) with several varieties of hickory (mockernut and bitternut) and elm.

Land Use

The lake?s warm water provides phenomenal recreational fishing year round. The lake contains Florida strain black bass, blue catfish, and black crappie stocked by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Approximately 10% of the land area is dedicated to rowcrops (soybean) and grazing. The power plant takes up around 10% of the land area. The remainder of the property is dedicated to nature conservation and environmental education. This includes the Eagle Watch area as well as unused buffer areas around the plant and below the dam that is virtually untouched except for occasional mowing. Activities that promote wildlife include snag retention, shrubby fencerow retention, and providing nest boxes for Wood Ducks, American Kestrels, and Eastern Bluebirds.

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