In 2019, Ducks Unlimited will improve 1,200 acres of wetlands at Shiawassee River State Game Area in Michigans Thumb region by replacing aging infrastructure.

Shiawassee River State Game Area, managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division, contains more than 40 miles of dikes connected to several complex pumping stations to allow water level management. Much of the infrastructure was constructed in the 1950s by the Army Corps of Engineers when the game area and adjacent national wildlife refuge were established.

Many of the pumping stations are relics of this era and have been maintained in a piecemeal fashion to remain operable and meet management demands. One of the main pumps has reached the end of its useful life and is no longer able to be rehabilitated to provide the substantial pumping capability required to manage water levels across the nearly two-square-mile wetland area it services.

Resorting water-level management will better equip Michigan Department of Natural Resources staff to mimic wetland water cycles and increase the wetland value for ducks.

This area can support nearly 20,000 waterfowl during peak waterfowl fall migration, said Dane Cramer, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist. Its also extremely popular for waterfowlers, birders and kayakers.

The Great Lakes region has lost a significant number of historical wetlands. In Michigan, the amount is greater than 50 percent. Keeping the remaining wetland habitats functional is a priority for Ducks Unlimited.

The area provides nesting, foraging, and migration habitat to non-game species such as bald eagles, American bitterns, least bitterns, sandhill cranes, pied-billed grebes and black terns.

Funding for the $635,000 project is provided by a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant, Wildlife Habitat Grant Program, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Shiawassee Flats Citizens and Hunters Association and proceeds from Ducks Unlimited Michigan license plate sales.