Minnesota’s 5,000 shallow lakes are sought out by thousands of migrating waterfowl and other water birds each fall and spring, looking to rest and build energy reserves before beginning the next leg of their journey. Breeding ducks use them for brood-rearing habitat too.
Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) and other partners have a successful history of conserving these lakes through protection, restoration and enhancement. DU’s Living Lakes Initiative focuses on this crucial wetland habitat in the northern end of the Mississippi Flyway.
Two recent projects continue that success and already improved habitat for the fall 2020 migration.
At the 216-acre Ward Lake, south of Hutchinson in Sibley County, an old, failed water-control structure left water levels unnaturally low for several years, resulting in minimal wetland wildlife habitat.
In 2019, the MNDNR designated Ward as Minnesota’s 60th Wildlife Management Lake. This formal legal designation allows the state to temporarily lower lake water levels periodically to remove invasive fish and enhance wetland wildlife habitat. To provide MNDNR the ability to manage water levels, Ducks Unlimited engineered and installed a new water-control structure to replace the old, failed structure on the outlet of the lake that will also prevent common carp from entering the lake.
The new DU-engineered structure returned water levels to normal by fall 2020, and Ward Lake was used by ducks and hunters in southern Minnesota.
Further west, in Yellow Medicine County, 260-acre Timm Lake historically hosted many waterfowl and other wildlife. But invasive fish and stabilized water levels over the last 20 years left Timm Lake with poor water quality and few submerged aquatic plants.
Ducks Unlimited engineered and installed a new water-control structure on the outlet, providing the MNDNR with the ability to temporarily lower water levels in 2020. This management will remove fish, consolidate bottom sediments and nutrients and allow aquatic plants to germinate and grow. DU also installed a fish barrier to prevent invasive fish from reentering the lake. This newly enhanced shallow lake is already providing clear water with abundant aquatic plants and invertebrates for migrating and breeding waterfowl, and for hunters and birdwatchers too.
“Ducks Unlimited is thankful for the opportunity to provide wetland engineering assistance to the MNDNR to design and install two more water control structures to benefit the ducks and hunters alike,” said Jon Schneider, director of conservation programs. “These cooperative wetland enhancement projects are part of a long-standing, strong partnership between DU and MNDNR that supports the state’s Duck Action Plan and goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan’s Prairie Pothole Joint Venture. We greatly appreciate our partnership with MNDNR.”
Both shallow lake enhancement projects were funded through state appropriations from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants, and private philanthropic support for Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes Initiative from DU Major Sponsors, foundations and corporations.