MDC and partners broke ground on April 24 for new pump station at Schell-Osage Conservation Area

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Kansas City
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Nevada, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) held a groundbreaking ceremony April 24 for a $6.4 million pump station project at the Schell-Osage Conservation Area in northeastern Vernon County. This is the first phase of three in a long-planned wetland and lake renovation. The project will improve the area’s wetlands for a wide variety of waterfowl, shore birds, and wading birds, and it will improve Schell Lake for fishing. These changes will enhance opportunities for waterfowl hunters, birders, wildlife watchers, and anglers. Key conservation partners such as Ducks Unlimited and local officials joined Missouri Conservation Commissioner Mark McHenry and MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley in turning the first shovels of dirt.

“Schell-Osage has been a great resource for many people,” Pauley said. “This first phase involving the pump station in combination with the wetland and lake phases, will help ensure that it continues to be a treasured resource into the future.” 

Director Pauley noted that Schell-Osage was developed along the Osage River and is one of MDC’s oldest wetland and upland conservation areas. But much has changed since wetland development began in 1962 and wetland pools were opened to managed waterfowl hunting in 1964. Schell-Osage lowlands are now in the upper end of Truman Lake. Extreme weather events and highwater levels within Truman Lake have caused repetitive, and therefore expensive, flood damage to area levees. Not all the change has been negative, though, because being adjacent to Truman Lake provides access to a much larger water source than when the area was first developed.

“Schell-Osage holds a special place in the hearts of many,” McHenry said. But he added, “in every infrastructure project, over time, repairs are required.”

Ducks Unlimited has been a vital partner in planning and implementing the renovation, he said. Other key partners include the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative, Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, Greater Ozarks Audubon Society, and Missouri Birding Society.

“It’s not easy to do a project on a dynamic ecosystem like this,” said Mark Flaspohler, DU conservation program director. “Thanks to all the partners, it wouldn’t have happened without you.”

The permanent concrete pump station will draw water from the Osage River arm of Truman Lake. This source replaces water from Schell Lake and Atkinson Lake as well as portable pumps into Truman Lake, which were less efficient, safe, and reliable. The pump station will give area managers better control to fill wetland pools during autumn and spring waterfowl migrations, and it will reduce water level fluctuations in Schell and Atkinson lakes.

Garney Construction of North Kansas City will begin work on the pump station May 1. Project managers plan to have the pump station phase completed by the winter of 2025.

Construction will prompt closure of public access to wetland pools C, D, E, and F. The A-pool will likely remain open for self-registration and walk-in hunting this autumn. As the construction footprint expands for all three phases of the renovation, there may be closures of other areas.

In coming phases, a redesign and rebuild of wetland levees will be at angles more in line with natural hydrology. They will use natural high points as anchors and be built with natural contours less prone to damage from flowing floodwater. The number of waterfowl hunting positions will be retained, and the new concrete hunting blinds will be built into mounds that will blend better into the landscape and can also function as habitat for wildlife.

Schell Lake will be renovated. The project will create more water depth diversity to enhance fishery habitat. An improved boat ramp and new jetties around the perimeter will increase access for anglers.

“I’m proud to say development like this is going to benefit people here long into the future,” said Missouri State Rep. Dane Diehl.

The Schell-Osage project is the final one in MDC’s Golden Anniversary Wetlands Initiative to improve the state’s five oldest wetland management areas. Other conservation areas improved include Fountain Grove, Duck Creek, Montrose, and Ted Shanks. Renovations at Schell-Osage are moving forward with help from a $1 million match grant from the federal North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). MDC and DU are using the grant to match the $3.5 million that has been dedicated from a diverse group of conservation partners to make the area better for waterfowl, wildlife watchers, hunters, and anglers.

“The Missouri Department of Conservation and our conservation partners are deeply committed to protecting and enhancing the state’s intensely managed wetlands,” Pauley said. “They’re incredibly valuable to wildlife and to people who enjoy the outdoors.”

For more information about the Schell-Osage Conservation Area, visit Updates on renovation progress, and maps of the project, are available at