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World Leader in Wetlands Conservation

Policy News: Vol. 1, Issue 4

Top stories for June 23, 2009
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Senate takes action to protect clean water

Senate lawmakers, led by Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) moved to protect America's wetlands this past week as the Environment and Public Works Committee voted to advance an amended Clean Water Restoration Act—the Baucus-Klobuchar Compromise for Clean Water—to the full Senate. Ducks Unlimited says this is a positive move to protect wetlands for waterfowl and clean water for America.

"This is a huge step toward restoring the Clean Water Act's safety net for prairie potholes and well over 20 million acres of wetlands throughout the U.S. that provide critical habitat for waterfowl and other fish and wildlife—and waterfowl hunters," said Don Young, executive vice president of Ducks Unlimited.

Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions had essentially derailed the Clean Water Act, leading to confusion over jurisdiction and permitting requirements. Under the amended Clean Water Restoration Act, protections would be restored to the way they were before the court decisions.

Visit the Ducks Unlimited Clean Water Action Center at www.ducks.org/cleanwater.


DU improving California wildlife areas

Work by Ducks Unlimited will improve water conveyance, supply, habitat and management capabilities at five wildlife areas (WAs) and one ecological reserve (ER), all owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game. In total, 1,683 acres of habitat will be improved, including the restoration of 95 acres of wetlands and 4 acres of riparian habitats and the enhancement of 1,584 acres of wetland habitat. Here are details on work to be done in each area:

Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area

Two projects will be constructed on the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area: Field 205 on the Howard Slough Unit and Field 105 on the Little Dry Creek Unit.

Field 205 on Howard Slough Unit Work will restore 37 acres of wetlands and 2 acres of riparian habitat. A pump and associated electrical service will be installed to provide water delivery, and a perimeter levee and series of interconnecting swales and potholes will be constructed. Water control structures will be installed to provide water and vegetation management capabilities. Oak trees and other woody vegetation will be planted to restore riparian habitat along the southern and southwestern borders of Field 205. A slough will be armored and an overflow spillway will be constructed to allow high flows to pass without destroying roadways.

Field 105 on the Little Dry Creek Unit Project work will enhance 51 acres of wetlands. The field will be recontoured, an exterior levee improved, water control structures replaced, and interconnecting swales and potholes will be constructed to improve water distribution, and drain and fill capabilities.

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Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Work will enhance 143 acres of wetlands in Field 18. A topographic survey will be conducted and a habitat improvement design prepared. Approximately 40,000 cubic yards of earth will be excavated to recontour selected areas and construct swales and potholes. Swales and potholes will be linked to water control structures to provide positive drainage. Material from recontouring and swale and pothole excavation will be used to improve the existing exterior levee and construct loafing islands and submerged benches. Six degraded water control structures will be replaced with concrete risers to improve water management capabilities.

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Los Banos Wildlife Area

Two projects will be constructed on the Los Banos Wildlife Area: Field 56 and Mud Slough.

Field 56 Work will restore 60 acres of wetland and riparian habitat in Field 56 by constructing wetland swales and basins to provide additional habitat through topography diversity, and increased water conveyance efficiency. Excavated material will be used to improve existing levees that surround the field and impound the wetland habitat. Five water control structures will be installed to manage water and maintain optimal water depths for foraging waterfowl and shorebirds. Willows and cottonwood trees will be planted along the newly constructed swales, wetland basins, and improved levees.

Mud Slough Water Conveyance This project will enhance 400 acres of wetlands by improving water conveyances via a low-lift pump. Currently, several large water control structures made of corrugated metal pipe are rusted out and have partially collapsed. This project will replace the inefficient structures and one will be fitted with a Waterman screwgate to further control water flows in a delivery ditch.

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Volta Wildlife Area

This project will enhance 600 acres of wetlands by improving water conveyance to the Westside Ditch from a low-lift pump. Currently, the Westside Ditch pump fails during prolonged use, especially during fall floodup. This project will retrofit the pump to ensure it functions properly. A meter will be installed next to the pump that is capable of tracking flow rates to ensure pumping efficiencies are achieved and to accurately record water lifted.

Learn more »

Butte Valley Wildlife Area

The project will enhance Unit 8B, a 190-acre managed wetland by subdividing the field into two smaller subunits through the construction of approximately 1,400 feet of internal levee, resulting in the development of 130-acre northern and 60-acre southern subunits. Besides constructing the internal levee, approximately 2,500 feet of perimeter levee along the southeastern portion of the unit will be raised. Both levees will be seeded with a grass/legume mixture. The borrow material needed to build the levees will come from within the 60-acre southern subunit by excavating meandering channels and potholes that are graded to drain to new internal levees.

Woodbridge Ecological Reserve

The proposed project is primarily located on the North Unit, which is approximately 200 acres in size. The inoperable Hog Slough pumping station and associated conveyance will be replaced. Two new stop-log water control structures will be installed in subunits A-B and C where the height of the existing berm will be increased. Three new swales will be excavated in Unit C and connected to the central irrigation return pumping station. The perimeter fence on the northern and southern units will be repaired. The southern boundary fence of the North Unit will be moved northward to construct a vehicular pull-out along Woodbridge Road too improve public access.


Reversal of fortunes for farm conservation programs

The House Appropriations Committee continues to support most of the hundreds of millions of dollars in conservation program cuts proposed by the White House. The committee passed an agriculture spending bill that maintains the $4 billion increase in spending for conservation programs included in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) says the bill will help turn around years of underinvestment in conservation.

The committee also accepted an amendment from Rep. Mark Kirk (Ill.) directing the Agriculture Department to conduct an independent study on how much land is converted to other uses because of biofuels. The committee earlier rejected an amendment to the Interior bill to block EPA from weighing indirect greenhouse gas emissions from land-use changes.


Northern Conservation Farms Project revitalizes Washington wetlands

The Northern Conservation Farms Project, located near Sequim, Wash., involves the donation of a conservation easement to DU by the landowners, Northern Conservation Farms. The donated easement comprises approximately 82 acres and the project includes the enhancement of another 40 acres of palustrine emergent marsh.

The site was predominantly reed canary grass and had inefficient and inoperable water control structures resulting in degraded wetland habitat. Recently, through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, approximately 17 acres of riparian plantings have been established along two creeks within the property. With the assistance of DU, the landowner will manage water levels within the site in order to reduce the prevalence of non-native invasive vegetation, promote native vegetation and increase seasonal open-water habitat.

This is an important area for migrating and wintering waterfowl and will benefit a diverse assemblage of native wetland-dependent species, including northern pintail, brant, Canada bufflehead, hooded merganser and wood duck.


Conservation on ballot in Iowa

Iowans will vote in 2010 on creating a natural resources and outdoor recreation trust fund. This is the third step in a five-step process that would next require the approval of the Iowa General Assembly and the Governor to raise sales taxes 3/8 of one percent. The move would be similar to a Minnesota initiative from last year that is already showing benefits for conservation.


San Joaquin River restoration

Ducks Unlimited has partnered with 10 other conservation organizations to achieve a shared vision of a fully functional San Joaquin River, complete with a resurrected wetland-enhanced flood plain and even a restored salmon population.

The San Joaquin watershed, the second largest California, has been reduced to a shadow of its former self, at some points becoming completely dry for over a quarter of its length. Congress recently passed legislation providing funds to initiate an ambitious, precedent-setting restoration effort and DU, as an active partner in this effort, will help ensure that waterfowl and other wetland-associated wildlife benefit from this work.

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