In September 2014, Ducks Unlimited joined the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other partners to celebrate the designation of 409-acre Eagle Lake as Minnesota's 50th wildlife management lake. This official action granted the state the authority to temporarily lower water levels and actively enhance wetland habitat.
Eagle Lake has an average depth of four feet and is located in McLeod County near Hutchison. As with many shallow lakes in Minnesota, Eagle Lake had become stagnant and degraded due to high water levels and invasive fish species such as Asian carp.
Now, thanks to the efforts of DU, the Minnesota DNR, and other partners, the process of enhancing the lake for waterfowl and other wildlife has begun in earnest. DU engineered and installed a new variable-crest water-control structure and fish barrier in late 2014, and DNR staff is now using that structure to conduct a temporary drawdown to remove invasive carp, consolidate sediment and nutrients, and rejuvenate aquatic plants and invertebrate food resources for ducks and other wildlife.
Wildlife have already started responding to these changes. Thousands of ducks and shorebirds were observed using the shallow water and mudflats exposed by the drawdown while migrating to their northern breeding grounds this spring.
Wetland plants have begun to germinate and grow as well. The area will be flooded again in 2016 and 2017 with rain and snowmelt runoff, and eventually will provide important managed shallow-lake habitat for both breeding and migrating waterfowl, as well as improved duck hunting conditions.
Funding partners for the Eagle Lake enhancement project include the Minnesota DNR, Buffalo Creek Watershed District, Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Van Sloun Foundation, Flint Hills Resources, Unimin Corporation, Major Sponsors contributing to DU's Living Lakes Initiative, and a significant appropriation from Minnesota's Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.