May 04, 2021

When I was out looking for a place to fish on Saturday, I drove by the Aux Arc Campground.  This is a Corps of Engineers park associated with a hydro plant along the Arkansas River.  I almost drove by, but I have found potential fishing holes at the Ellis hydro plant near Fort Smith.  I pulled in at the last minute to see what the park was like.  I entered the park and drove slowly (truck in front going 5 miles per hour) by a continuous series of campsites.  It was a weekend but still I was amazed to see nearly every spot filled with an RV and usually an additional tent.  The playground had nearly twenty children and their parents, and a birthday party for forty was taking place in the shelter.  There must have been over 300 people crammed along the narrow bank of the river.  This was one of the many parks and campsites that were closed this time last year.  We seem to be back open in full swing.

The Ozark hydroelectric plant is one of six plants along the Arkansas River in our state.  There are an additional five Hydro plants on the White River and a total of 19 plant throughout the state. These are operated by six different power agencies.  In 2018, Arkansas’ electricity-generating facilities had a summer capacity of 14,763 megawatts, and a net generation of 67,999 gigawatt-hours.  The Hydro plant at Ozark was completed in 1973.  It has five turbines that produce a net generation of 89,547 megawatts of power.  In 2020, Arkansas’ electrical power generation mix was 39% coal, 28% natural gas, 22% nuclear, 8% hydroelectric and 3% renewables.  We are still a long way from clean renewable energy.

The Ozark hydro plant marks the beginning of the Ozark Lake.  The associated park created by the Corps is named Aux Arc based on the name given to the area by the early French explorers who mapped the territory.  “Aux Arc” means “the big bend” in French and described the bend in the Arkansas River noted by the mappers.  Over time, the name was simplified to “Ozark,” thus the name for Ozark Lake and the town located nearby.  Some suggest the whole area was called the big bend by the French, and the later English explorers applied the name to the nearby mountains as well.  The Ozark Mountains cover a significant portion of northern Arkansas and most of the southern half of Missouri.  This is a big bend.

Thoughts:  Hydro was once the main source to power for early industry of America.  Most mills and factories were located along rivers or streams that used the flowing water to turn the machines that drove early industry.  It was not until September 30, 1882, that the world’s first hydroelectric power plant began operation in Appleton, Wisconsin.  The plant was initiated by Appleton paper manufacturer H.J. Rogers and was inspired by Thomas Edison’s plans for an electricity-producing station in New York.  Hydro is one of several non-carbon renewable sources available to produce the electricity needed to drive today’s manufacturing and light our nation’s cities.  While the dams associated with the plants often serve as flood control, they can also block the migration and spawn of species of fish.  We cannot choose human needs over nature’s but need to find a way to allow both to thrive.  Otherwise, nature will win.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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