Note to Our Readers
Preparation is Key
In the past three years, the state of Missouri has experienced 11 major weather events including tornadoes, floods, ice storms and even a giant windstorm. These events have caused considerable damage to local communities but also to Conservation Department lands and infrastructure.
The Conservation Department works with the State Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance with emergency response in life threatening and public safety situations. In the early stages of an event, Department staff also take action to protect conservation areas and facilities from probable damage. As time progresses, the response shifts from emergency response to recovery response. In this stage, the Department takes action to restore conservation areas and infrastructure.
Since its beginning in 1937, the Department has acquired nearly 1,000 conservation areas across the state and has invested in the development of numerous facilities for the enjoyment of the public. Damages to conservation areas and facilities are costly and require a great deal of staff time for repair and restoration.
Ice storms and windstorms often cause damage to Department buildings, radio communication towers and, of course, trees. For instance, a giant straight-line windstorm officially known as a derecho occurred May 8, 2009, causing much damage in south Missouri. As a result of the 60- to 90-mile-per hour straight-line winds, a radio tower collapsed at Perryville. Fallen trees damaged the Department’s Houston office and significantly impacted Montauk Fish Hatchery. Fallen trees and limbs also blocked and damaged numerous hiking trails at nature centers and many conservation areas. Thirty-three million board feet of standing timber were damaged on 13,000 acres of Department land in 35 counties. Recovery from this windstorm is still in progress today as thousands of hours of Department staff time have been invested in cleanup and repairs.
Floods also cause a great deal of damage in various ways. Floodwaters deposit tons of mud and debris on boat launching ramps and parking lots at river accesses, requiring the use of heavy construction equipment for cleanup. Outdoor toilets are filled with mud and often damaged in high water events. The Department coldwater fish hatcheries at Montauk, Bennett Spring and Maramec Spring have often suffered loss of trout from fish rearing facilities during floods.
Floodplains and wetlands provide a great benefit in mitigating floods, however, managed wetlands are susceptible to damage from flooding. Floodwaters can cause erosion damage in wetland pools and around water control structures. In wet years such as 2008 and 2009, repairs to managed wetlands required staff attention. For example, in this two-year period alone, the wetlands of the Department’s Fountain Grove Conservation Area in northwest Missouri were flooded more than 20 times.
In the past three years, the Department has invested more than 50,000 hours of staff time in disaster response and recovery. However, regardless of when or how often disaster strikes, you can be assured that dedicated Department staff are hard at work behind the scenes to restore Missouri’s beautiful conservation areas and facilities for your enjoyment.
William F. Lueckenhoff, design and development division chief