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Wetland Renovation Construction Update Fall 2015

Nov 17, 2015

There are some local sayings that come from years of observing the patterns and can be treated as good rules of thumb. One that I've heard over the years regarding southeast Missouri's bottomland forests is "as the leaves fall down, the water table begins to move up".

This is accurate on a couple different levels. First of all, during the growing season trees can use a lot of water as they transpire. This transpiration rate of course can vary depending upon the air temperature and availability of water, but overall you can think of trees as functioning as large water pumps during this time. In the fall as the trees go dormant, the pumps are essentially turned off and water is no longer being removed from the water table. Secondly, this region of the state comes off one of driest months of the year in October and usually receives a bump of rain in November, like we are currently experiencing. This increase in precipitation, decreased evaporation due to cooler temperatures, and reduction of "pumping" from the trees contribute to increasing water table and ponding of water across the Mingo Basin that makes this saying true.

This Fall's Work

The past September and October period was extremely dry. According to the state climatologist, Pat Guinan, it was the driest in 50 years. While this may not have been ideal for some in preparation for the waterfowl season, the contractors working on the wetland renovation work at Duck Creek made the most of the dry conditions. Their goal in moving dirt around focused on taking down cross levees, building up gradual slopes along natural contours, and enhancing the depth of diversity basins and sloughs. When the first rains of November fell, I went out to take a look around. I was pleasantly surprised to see water showing after only an inch and a half of rain. Water had fallen off of the slightly higher ground and filled in and spread out across the shallow basins and depressions across the fields.

Current Status

Along the periphery of Pool 1 a couple of idle fields have been enhanced to temporarily pond pockets of water and benefit wetland species primarily in the spring. The Grim tract and C Pool have been revamped to work with the natural topography and spread water out within shallow basins and will be incorporated into the waterfowl hunt program again next year. Contractors are still working on clearing brush at the fish ponds, but will be doing similar work as the Grim tract to enhance the habitat there.

With this next deluge of rain, grading work will likely come to a standstill for the season as the leaves have begun to fall down and the water is coming up. Contractors will wait and see if conditions will allow them turn their focus on concrete and bridge work, but it is safe to say the dirt work will be on hold until a future date. Despite this delay I am encouraged to see the rain bring to life the new designs as they begin to hold water and show their potential for next year.


Restored Slough
Restored Slough
On the northwest side of Pool 1, an extension of Brush Creek was restored to provide ephemeral wetland habitat and connectivity to the ditch.


Subtle Topography Enhancements
Subtle Topography Enhancements
In field 7A small depressions were enhanced in an idle field to spread water out and provide habitat for wetland species in winter and spring.


Working With Nature
Working With Nature
In C Pool, dirt work focused on enhancing the topography and work around the existing cypress trees.


Removing Obstructions
Removing Obstructions
Also in C Pool, an unnecessary cross levee was removed to prevent water ponding on the backside and cause incidental harm to the bottomland trees.


Elevation Gradient
Elevation Gradient
At the Grim tract the initial rains spread out across the renovated flats to highlight the shallow basin, while grass grows on the low levee.


Elevation Gradient
Elevation Gradient
Water trickles through the finished water control structure that will drain the flooded habitat at Grim.


Looking back at the climate summary data for the past month, November was the 9th warmest and 2nd wettest on record for Cape Girardeau. 

I appreciate and share your passion for waterfowl hunting. As you noticed birds are on the move and our most recent survey shows a rebound in duck numbers.  I understand you and I ultimately differ in our perspectives, when it comes to waterfowl, planted crops, and native plants. On all of the Department’s intensively managed wetland areas we use moist soil management along with crops as an integrated strategy.  This practice has years of research and application behind it. Just like the progression of waterfowl migration, our wetland management is subject to the variability of the weather and is different from one year to the next. The wild millet seed production this year in the blind openings of Pool 2 was higher than anything we could have planted. We will continue to roll with the weather and what conditions allow throughout the year to manage these wetlands based upon our best understanding of ecology. 

Any chance Pool 2 will be replanted with Japanese millet around the pool openings? It seemed to work magic the one year it was planted there. Water may be spreading the birds out but the lack of man made crops (CORN) in areas all over Duck Creek is ANOTHER reason the duck numbers are down. Good news is I live next to the Mississippi River and have been sitting outside working on decoys and Christmas Decorations listening to wave after wave of geese fly by going south. Hopefully there are lots of ducks following along with them.

I was kind of surprised too as I was putting together all of the different numbers from across the state. For a simple answer, I think a lot of birds have spread out and it looked like at that point in time we had lost some birds. The bottom-line is conditions change and birds respond. Additionally, if you look at the state, southeast Missouri is pretty unique.  Everywhere else in Missouri the wetlands are within relatively narrow floodplains and therefore the habitat and birds are more concentrated, even when local flooding occurs.  In southeast Missouri, the historic Mississippi floodplain suddenly broadens out and encompasses a wider swath that is over 30 miles across. When we receive heavy rains down here, there are a lot of options across a greater chunk of real estate.  I think this was partially reflected in the lower numbers last week. 

The Duck Creek and Mingo staff are currently talking about the opportunities in Pool 7 and Pool 8.  I believe you’ll see an increase number of positions in both pools at the draw during the course of the next week or so.

Leeches are definitely are out there and part of the wetland food web. From time to time, you’ll come across them attached to your decoys, bucket, or waders.  It sounds like you hit the treasure trove.  While they may not be considered critical waterfowl foods, mallards will eat them in small amounts. With this summer’s wet weather and certain locations not drying out completely, we may have had a good hatch of leeches this year.  I looked into your question a bit more and found some information that indicated that leeches respond to splashing in search of new meals.  So perhaps what you found the other day means you that had a lot of movement in your decoys. I hope you had a good hunt and thanks for the question.

Feral hog eradication is a continuing priority for the Department. The bait in that location has been removed and the position has been included in the draw. We’ll continue to address hog problems where we find them and encourage the public to also notify us so that we can help. 

Any word from Mingo on opening of pool 7 or when pool 8 will jump to 50 inv? I wouldn't expect water is a problem anymore. Also, why do you think the bird counts in semo are so low. This is the only area in the state that seemed to be losing birds on public ground? Thanks!

We hunted X4 last week. We were picking up decoys after the hunt and noticed the majority of the decoys had leeches adhered to the bottom of them. Some decoys had 6 or more leeches attached. This is the first time we've seen this. Have you ever seen this? Why would they be drawn to the decoys?

Any luck trapping the hogs in 53?

Grimm tract currently has approximately 110 acres of open land and 270 acres of forest.

Can you tell us how many acres are timbered and how many acres are open in the Grimm Tract?

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