Improved hunting and fishing habitat is expected thanks to a much-anticipated Marble-Hottes Lakes Enhancement project in Dickinson County.

The project began as part of a Ducks Unlimited-Iowa Department of Natural Resources Shallow Lakes partnership and grew into a collaborative effort with many partners and community support.

Nearly 20 percent of the water that enters Big Spirit Lake flows through the Marble-Hottes Lakes system. Completing this project helps improve water quality in Big Spirit Lake, enhance more than 450 acres of emergent marsh and provide better hunting and fishing opportunities on these popular lakes.

The project included installing pump facilities on West Hottes and Marble Lakes to regulate water levels and a fish screen installed on East Hottes at outlet to Big Spirit Lake to exclude carp.

The restoration is expected to transform the shallow water areas of the lake from murky, open water to stands of emergent vegetation such as cattail and bulrush. Areas greater than three feet deep will be dominated by dense submerged aquatic vegetation that thrives in clear water.

Aquatic vegetation such as sago pondweed is a favorite food for ducks such as wigeons and diving ducks. This project is modeled after the Diamond Lake project, Iowa's first Shallow Lake enhancement project. Since Diamond Lake was restored in 2009, waterfowl use has increased dramatically, with spring waterfowl surveys recording more than 12,000 ducks on the 160-acre lake.

Marble-Hottes was a true community effort, with support coming from Iowa DNR, the Dickinson County Water Quality Commission, the Waitt-Carlton Family Foundation, Ducks Unlimited supporters, the Clean Water Alliance and the North American Wetland Conservation Act.