S.D. wetland restoration keeps lakes clean

Ducks Unlimited project also helps control flooding

Wildlife, livestock, landowners and sportsmen will benefit from a wetland restoration project completed near the shores of Waubay Lake in Day County, South Dakota.

Ducks Unlimited led the effort to restore hydrology to eight wetlands drained decades ago on a 296-acre parcel of native grassland and wetland habitat near the southern shore of Waubay Lake. About 39 wetland acres were restored by plugging drainage ditches, which restored their natural hydrology. According to Ducks Unlimited Regional Biologist Randy Meidinger, the wetland restoration project brings South Dakota multiple benefits.

“Two of the more obvious benefits are increased flood control and enhanced wetland habitat for wildlife,” Meidinger said. “Many lakes in northeast South Dakota have seen high water levels over the last 20 years, which have flooded croplands, pastures, and residences. Restoring wetlands in this watershed will increase the wetlands’ water-holding capacity, which means less water moving downstream and less flooding in those areas.”

Waubay Lake is one of many South Dakota lakes that have significant problems with algae blooms during warm summer months. Restoring and protecting wetlands in these watersheds are important tools to address South Dakota’s water quality challenges.

 “Wetlands have a wonderful ability to improve water quality. Water from nearby fields, that previously ran off during snow melt or heavy rains, likely carried residual fertilizers and other agrichemicals directly into Waubay Lake,” Meidinger said. “With the wetlands restored, the water held in these basins will be purified through natural processes.”

Additional funding was provided by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.