A Historic Effort to Alleviate Flooding in Arkansas

August 23, 2023

Olsson is part of an initiative that will deliver nearly $100 million in public infrastructure projects for underserved communities in Arkansas plagued by chronic flooding.

The Arkansas Black Mayors Association (ABMA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), will invest $95.6 million for 19 projects in eastern and southern Arkansas. Projects including flood prevention, dam rehabilitation, and watershed restoration will benefit small cities and agricultural communities that have long dealt with socioeconomic challenges caused by repeated flooding and severe weather.

ICONIC Consulting Group is one of the prime consultants selected to plan for and recommend solutions for communities within the designated watersheds. ICONIC, in turn, recruited Olsson as a subconsultant.

“We are proud to partner with ICONIC, the Arkansas Black Mayors Association, and the NRCS on improving these watersheds,” said Brian Osborn, leader of Olsson’s Environmental team. “The project will allow us to share our experience with ICONIC in a collaboration that expands the professional capacity to do this work while identifying ways to protect these communities from flooding.”

Project expenses will be funded or cost-shared through the NRCS Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program. Olsson is one of a limited number of engineering consultants with recent experience completing projects through the program.

“We are incredibly excited to embark on this watershed planning project alongside Olsson,” said Keith Britton, president and founder of ICONIC Consulting Group. “Partnering with Olsson provides us with a unique opportunity to not only grow and expand our capabilities, but also make a meaningful difference in the lives of historically underserved communities facing flooding issues.”

The watersheds to be addressed by the ICONIC and Olsson team are as follows:

Lick Creek and Big Creek Watershed, including the communities of Helena-West Helena, Lake View, and Marvell.

Larkin Creek and L’Anguille River Watershed, including the communities of Forrest City, Haynes, and Marianna.

L’Anguille River and St. Francis River Watershed, including the community of Madison.

At this phase, Olsson and ICONIC will create a list of alternatives to improve conditions and reduce flooding using the WFPO watershed plan-environmental assessment process. The process involves evaluating the environmental, economic, and social effects of each alternative and sharing the information with the public.

Olsson’s Environmental and Water teams will work on the project as will public engagement staff members.

“These investments will help protect communities and their residents here in Arkansas that are impacted by floods, natural disasters, and other watershed scale resource concerns,” Terry Cosby, chief of the NRCS, said in a news release. The projects “will create a more climate resilient future and will help these communities thrive in the years to come.”

The historically underserved communities within the three watershed areas face challenges related to poverty, unemployment, underinvestment, lack of economic diversity, and population loss, which are exacerbated by chronic flooding. Addressing flooding and other watershed issues can help the communities focus on growth and economic development, according to Valerie Miller, a subject matter expert in water for Olsson who will manage the project.

“This program is unique because it allows us to present a variety of solutions to current problems and those that will occur in the future,” Miller said. “And we will demonstrate the feasibility of implementing the solutions and how they would resolve watershed issues, minimize impacts to the environment, and position the communities for potential growth.”

Olsson is an engineering firm made up of people who craft expert solutions that improve communities. The firm offers consulting services in planning and design, engineering, field services, environmental and technology. For more information, go to www.olsson.com.


Display Photo: Lewisville Mayor Ethan Dunbar, president of the Arkansas Black Mayors Association, announces $95.6 million in federal funding for watershed improvement in historically underserved communities in Arkansas. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)