Our Small Business JV Assists NRCS, Black Mayors Association on Arkansas Watershed Reviews

Freese and Nichols water planners and environmental scientists are assisting 15 Arkansas cities with watershed investigations to help them prepare for infrastructure projects that have the potential to make the communities safer from flooding and more climate resilient.

Through our Kenall-Freese and Nichols Small Business Joint Venture, our team is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Arkansas Black Mayors Association on fast-tracked studies that will help underserved communities potentially access almost $96 million in federal funding. Each city lies within a watershed, or land drainage area, with rivers and streams that eventually feed the Mississippi River or its tributaries.

For each of the cities, the JV team will conduct a Preliminary Investigation and Findings Report (PIFR), a brief watershed study that uses existing data and field information. The report is the first step in the NRCS watershed planning process. If the PIFR assessment shows no insurmountable obstacles, the planning process can move forward to a more detailed watershed plan with recommendations for specific projects that eventually could be implemented.

The JV team is coordinating with the Arkansas Black Mayors Association, the local sponsor of the project, to host virtual stakeholder meetings in each watershed. The goal is to complete four reports by the end of 2022, another five in the first quarter of 2023, and the remaining six by the end of June.

The team brings experience on similar analyses for cities in Oklahoma and Illinois. A PIFR involves reviewing a range of existing studies of a watershed, including federal regulations such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, as well as various land use reviews by federal, state and local agencies, tribal entities, cities, irrigation and flood districts, and other stakeholders.