Army Corps Estimates Nearly $1 Billion Saved Since 1930’s By White River System

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BEAVER (KFSM) -- The 722 mile long White River is one of the region`s largest water systems, spanning from Fayetteville into Missouri.

Beaver Lake’s Beaver Dam is one of the system`s strongest hydroelectric power sources.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it helps those downstream from Beaver Lake avoid frequent extreme flooding.

“The White River system can reduce flooding, but we can`t prevent all flooding,” said Laurie Driver, spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers.

When heavy rain causes flooding, the Army Corps can open a series of seven flood gates at Beaver Dam, which can limit the water flowing out of the lake.

“They reduce flood damages,” said Nathaniel Keen, Chief of Hydrology and Hydraulics for the Army Corps of Engineers.

In late December of 2015, the gates were opened to more than nine feet each, for the first time since 2008.

“The water was rushing down quite a bit. It was the fastest I have ever seen the current come down,” said Jay Baldridge, alderman for the Town of Beaver.

Beaver is a community with a population of less than 100. The town is almost completely surrounded by the White River.

Baldridge said recent flooding blocked access routes to the town.

“Within two days, [the water] was up over the bridge, and the debris was over the bridge,” Baldridge said. “It will probably be before March before we get access across [the bridge].”

Although the flooding has receded in recent weeks, the water still had portions of Beaver Park closed.

However, the Army Corps said flooding is minimal, compared to what it would be without the system.

They also believe the construction of the White River Basin lakes and levees has saved the state from an estimated $960 million in flood losses.

“Every picture you see of flooding of a park or residence downstream, it would have been many times worse if the dam had not been there,” Keen said.

Those who live along the White River said they are very grateful for the system.

“If we did not have the gates, the flood dams, and all of that, I guess it would be a disaster,” Baldridge said.

Beaver Lake is just one of the three lakes along the White River Basin.

The Army Corps of Engineers said it never intends to flood resident's property when it opens the gates.

However, they say those who purchase land along the river are warned in advance about the danger of flooding.