I just wanted to check in with folks and lay out what we can expect in the next year. I also wanted to address some common questions that we get about different parts of Duck Creek.
Over time, habitat quality has changed on Duck Creek. Likewise, hunting opportunity and quality has also decreased in certain locations. Part of this is because 60 years ago we didn't understand the complexity and role of variability within wetland systems, especially in bottomland hardwoods. Things have not only changed on Duck Creek, but the surrounding landscape has also changed over time (land use, habitat, water use, etc.). These factors have had their affect on waterfowl and other species.
During the fall of 2010, weather, worn out infrastructure, and construction limited hunting opportunity in the timber (Pools 2, 3, 8). For those of you that did get out to hunt on Duck Creek, we had some pretty successful days. I hope you were able to take part.
As we proceed through our renovation, where and how many hunting positions will change as projects start and finish. In the fall of 2011, it is highly unlikely that Unit A and B will be flooded due to renovation activities. However, weather providing, we should be able to flood and hunt Pools 2 and 3 in fall of 2011. Like many challenges today, there is not a silver bullet answer to the “problems” of Duck Creek because of complex issues (social, economic, and ecological). Nevertheless, this is a great opportunity to apply what we’ve learned in the past, continue to manage for the resource, and benefit our users for years to come.
The purpose of Pool 1 has evolved over the years as limitations and opportunities have been realized. It was initially managed as a greentree reservoir, but due to the seasonal precipitation pattern of the region, it was quickly turned into a water reservoir. The stored water is used to flood Pools 2 and 3 for waterfowl hunting. Because of the permanently flooded conditions in Pool 1 a tremendous fishery developed. Over the years it has been a balancing act to maintain a minimum pool level for the fisheries, while still having enough water to flood Pools 2 and 3. The timing of when we receive water and when we distribute it to the other pools will not change, however, our renovated water delivery system (Ditch 111, and series of structures between the Cato Levee and Pool 1) should increase our efficiency to store an adequate water supply for multiple uses during most years. With this in mind, the summer of 2010 was the third driest since 1950 and should be considered the extreme event and not the norm.
Drilling wells for Pools 2 and 3 has been discussed at length for many years. It would relieve us from relying on Pool 1 as a water source. The price of installation of multiple wells (at least 6) along with the long term costs of operation and maintenance of these wells is a definite concern. Depletion of the aquifer by over-utilization of wells is also a point of contention with this approach and has been experienced in areas not far from here. Also, there is a lot of uncertainty about the long term health effects to trees that are flooded with mineral laden water.
In the past 10 years, we have really progressed with our understanding and management of bottomland hardwood timber as we’ve focused on recruitment requirements and the flood tolerance of different species. Flood timing and duration can negatively affect the species composition and can ultimately destroy the very resources that make these habitats attractive to waterfowl and great for hunting. Allowing for variability in flood timing among years will allow these wetlands to function more naturally and will benefit the long-term timber health. The existing water system (Ditch 111 and Pool 1) is adequate to do this without the extra expense and concerns that come along with wells.
Unit A and Unit B is our moist soil habitat, which is used by early migrating waterfowl and provides our best hunting opportunity early in the season. In our renovation plans we are utilizing two new wells, the existing wells, and incorporating water from the surrounding watershed to flood habitat early in the fall when water is limited. By reconfiguring the size and location of levees and using the impoundment’s topography we will be making the most of our flooded habitat. Not only will this allow us to extend the amount of habitat and hunting opportunities within Unit A and B, but it will also decrease the amount of maintenance and repair needed over time. During the course of waterfowl season, resources and habitat needs change for waterfowl. Later in the season is when the timber becomes more important and will provide waterfowl resources and hunting opportunity at Duck Creek.
I hope this helps explains some of the challenges and how we are trying to make the most of what we have in terms of finances and infrastructural limitations. Our team is very excited and passionate about the area and are looking forward to this summer’s work. I hope you are too. Thank you for your interest.