Iowa marsh gets a makeover and improves downstream water quality

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa, June 29, 2009 –

Aerial view of Jemmerson Slough; photo courtesy of the Iowa DNR
New structures and wetland management abilities will bring Jemmerson Slough Wildlife Management Area back to life. Ducks Unlimited and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources have completed the second phase of a multi-phase project to enhance the degraded marsh and improve downstream water quality.

“The water quality at Jemmerson Slough impacts all the lakes downstream and Iowa’s Great Lakes residents will appreciate the positive impacts these improvements will have,” said Chris LaRue, Iowa DNR area manager.

Jemmerson Slough is connected downstream to the Center Lake Complex that eventually flows into West Okoboji Lake, a major recreational and fishing lake.

Recognized as a key waterfowl production and migratory bird staging area, Jemmerson Slough WMA is 932 acres with 310 acres of wetland basins surrounded by restored native prairie. Once considered a healthy marsh interspersed with emergent vegetation and open water, this wetland complex has slowly deteriorated over time. High water levels and pervasive rough fish problems have diminished the water quality and aquatic plant community leading to reduced forage value for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species.  

To improve 230 acres on Jemmerson Slough, the partners installed a permanent pumping station, underground outlet pipe, water control structures and a modified grate-style fish barrier at the marsh’s outlet. These improvements will allow DNR managers to draw down the basins to mimic historic natural wet and dry cycles.

“Preventing rough fish from entering the wetlands is always a challenge, but we’ve seen the good results when we do. Keeping them out can change the water from a turbid to clear state and the vegetation responds,” said Doug Lipetzky DU senior regional engineer. “The water quality benefits are obvious and the work we do really could be defined as both water quality and waterfowl habitat improvements.”

The completion of this project marks another milestone for DU’s Living Lakes Initiative that will not only benefit waterfowl, but also the people of Iowa.    

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.

For more information on DU’s Living Lakes Initiative,
www.ducks.org/livinglakes

See project description

Contacts:
Jennifer Kross, 701-202-8896, jkross@ducks.org
Becky Jones Mahlum, 701-355-3507, bjonesmahlum@ducks.org