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DU touts benefits of proposed habitat project in Minnesota

Civil Works Review Board approves Marsh Lake project that plans to enhance 5,000 acres
  • photo by Paul Knutson
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Last week, Ducks Unlimited Director of Public Policy Barton James testified in support of a Minnesota project that aims to enhance 5,000 acres of habitat and expand sportsmen's access. After DU highlighted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Review Board the positive impact that enhancing Marsh Lake will have on waterfowl populations, sportsmen and the local economy, the project was approved and will now advance to the next stage of the review process. 

"In Minnesota alone, over 1 million hunters and anglers spend about $3.4 billion annually pursuing their outdoor interests and support 55,000 jobs within the state," James said. "It is important that Congress support conservation projects such as the Marsh Lake enhancement that conserve habitat and provide positive benefits to waterfowl, sportsmen and local businesses." 

Marsh Lake is a 5,000-acre shallow lake near Appleton, Minn., that has a history of heavy use by waterfowl and waterfowl hunters. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources propose to improve water management capability for Marsh Lake through an Ecosystem Restoration Project. The project would improve the Minnesota DNR's ability to enhance the lake's ecology by renovating a dam structure and restoring the original Pomme de Terre River channel to enter the Minnesota River downstream of Marsh Lake, as it once did naturally. The lake lies within the Lac Qui Parle Wildlife Area, which the Minnesota DNR manages. 

"Shallow lakes are critical waterfowl, birding and wildlife habitat," said Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "The ability to manage water levels to adapt to changing conditions and restoration of the original river channel will significantly enhance and expand recreational opportunities in and around Marsh Lake and the Pomme de Terre River."

Increased inflows in recent years of water, nutrients and invasive fish, such as common carp, have degraded the lake. The new structure will allow the Minnesota DNR to lower lake water levels periodically to allow natural fish winterkill to reduce carp abundance, improve water clarity and allow aquatic plants to expand. 

"The water quality and habitat in Marsh Lake are now severely degraded, and the lake is almost devoid of aquatic plants, ducks and the hunters who follow them," said Ryan Heiniger, DU director of conservation programs for Minnesota. "This partnership project between the Corps and DNR will bring the lake back to life, and we applaud them." 

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