The Bayou Meto Project was authorized by the United States Congress to provide flood control, wildlife habitat, and surface water irrigation benefits to several hundred thousand acres of Lonoke, Prairie, Jefferson, and Arkansas counties. The Memphis District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, is the lead federal agency for project planning and construction. The State of Arkansas, through its Department of Agriculture's Division of Natural Resources, is the non-federal sponsor, responsible for approximately 35% of the cost.  

The Bayou Meto Water Management District was formed in 1991 and is participating in financing by borrowing most of the non-federal share through Division of Natural Resources financing programs. The District also acquires rights-of-way for project construction and is building portions of the project, including bridges and roads. The District will operate the project when complete. 

The project will provide surface water to approximately 300,000 irrigated crop acres. Groundwater withdrawals from the alluvial and Sparta aquifers within the district's boundaries are unsustainable. The alluvial aquifer is less than 50% saturated in most of the area to be served and continues to decline at an alarming rate.

Two pumping plants were completed by 2015. The Marion Berry Pumping Plant at Scott, Arkansas, can move 1,750 cubic feet of Arkansas River water into the system per second. The Little Bayou Meto Pump Station at Reydell, Arkansas will evacuate excess water from the basin back into the Arkansas River. This will especially benefit the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area, which is often inundated well into spring, when high-quality hardwood trees come out of dormancy. Removing the water earlier in the season will improve tree health and save a valuable source of wildlife habitat.  

Though the pumping plants are ready to operate, the estimated 130 miles of bayou and ditch cleanout necessary to move water through the system has not yet started. Over 450 miles of pipeline will be built to distribute water from these bayous and ditches to farms.  

The project will not supply 100% of water demand. The estimated safe yield of the alluvial aquifer in the area is 148,565 acre-feet, and the plan is to reduce groundwater pumping to that amount. The project is designed to provide 1 acre foot to each crop acre with on farm conservation improvements and tailwater recovery making up the difference.  

The federal and state governments as well as the District have invested substantial amounts of money to date on planning, land acquisition, pumping plant construction, and canal. The main canal, including one bridge, is under construction currently. The Corps of Engineers, State of Arkansas, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the District are working to finalize a financing and construction plan to complete the first operational phase and begin delivering water.  

Current status
The Bayou Meto Water Management Project will provide irrigation water from the Arkansas River, improve drainage, and enhance wildlife habitat. 

The Board of Directors voted in November 2020 not to pursue a higher assessment on cropland in the project area. This option had been considered to secure loans from the State of Arkansas to match federal money coming into the project. 

The State has agreed to allow the District to use projected water sales revenue to finance construction. 

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently awarded the project over $40 million. The District will match the money through loans from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Division.

With this money from NRCS, the District can clean out portions of Indian Bayou, Indian Bayou Ditch, and Wabbaseka Bayou. The cleanout will let the irrigation water flow and will improve drainage. 

The main canal, which will cross Highway 165 just south of Scott, is being built. This stretch of canal will reach as far as Cole Deading Road south of the Marlsgate Plantation. 

An additional three miles of canal will be built to reach Indian Bayou so water can be delivered.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation will build bridges where the canal will cross Highways 161 and 165. The financing is in place for these bridges.

When the canal, cleanout, and pipelines in this phase are finished, the project will be able to provide supplemental irrigation water to almost 90,000 acres of cropland along and near Indian Bayou, Indian Bayou Ditch, and Wabbaseka Bayou. 

In later phases, the project will move east and north, eventually serving 268,000 acres of irrigated land. 

If you have questions about the project, please call the District at 501-676-7420.

Bayou Meto Water Management District
1300 North Center Street, Suite 9
Lonoke, Arkansas 72086

Edward Swaim, Executive Director