JONESBORO – This week’s heavy rainfall is forcing the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to manipulate water levels on several wildlife management areas in northeast Arkansas. The measures are necessary to prevent damage or failure of infrastructure such as levees and water-control structures.

The good news for duck hunters is that affected areas still will be at or near target water levels for Saturday’s opening day of duck season.

AGFC staff are manipulating or may be forced to manipulate water levels at Dave Donaldson Black River WMA, Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA, St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA, Big Lake WMA and Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA.

“As a result of the recent rains and expected and observed elevated river levels, the area staff will be closely monitoring and manipulating water to alleviate infrastructure damages to levees, slough plugs and other areas susceptible to erosion,” said Terence Teel, biologist supervisor in the AGFC’s Jonesboro Regional Office. “Pool levels will be monitored and are not expected to fall below target levels during this time. We will monitor the gauges and maintain adequate water levels in all compartments when the elevated waters recede.”

Some 4 to 5 inches of rain fell across the region Tuesday and Wednesday, causing a rapid rise in streams and rivers that feed the management areas. The surge of water potentially could cause blowouts in levees and water-control structures, causing additional water loss. Infrastructure on many of the affected WMAs was recently repaired following past flooding.

The AGFC will manipulate water-control structures at Dave Donaldson Black River WMA and Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA today and Thursday, depending on rising water levels. If necessary, staff at St. Francis Sunken Lands will lower the Payneway gate Thursday to protect a recently constructed erosion dam and prevent drainage of St. Francis Lake.

Target water levels should be reached this weekend at Big Lake WMA, but some water-level manipulation may be required next week if water levels continue to rise. Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA should be at full pool for opening day, with little or no water manipulation required.

Other popular duck hunting areas in eastern Arkansas, including Dagmar WMA and Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA, will need more rainfall to reach full pool. The latest rains did not fall as heavily in the Stuttgart area and will have little impact on Bayou Meto WMA’s water levels.