The Swan Lake Wetland Restoration Project broke ground at the wildlife refuge in late May and has been continuously pushing forward since then.
The joint project between the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Ducks Unlimited and the Fish and Wildlife Service began planning almost eight years ago.
Migratory birds have been congregating at the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge for many years. Since the 1980s, Canadian geese have been migrating less to the area, but ducks have been migrating to the area more and more over the years.
About eight years ago, Swan Lake along with Ducks Unlimited and the Fish and Wildlife Service started drawing up a plan to restore some of the wetland areas at the refuge. Earlier this year Ducks Unlimited received a $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act to begin restoring the wetland areas. The restoration includes 487 acres of restored wetland habitat and 1,110 acres of enhanced wetlands.
The restoration project involves changing some of the levee boundaries at the refuge, constructing new drainage structures and flume ditches. The new structures, which are located at the center and North of the refuge are used to fill and drain the areas more easily.
According to Swan Lake manager Steve Whitson, the refuge will remain open.
“The North entrance of the refuge is closed, but the rest of the refuge is open to the public during sunlight hours,” Whitson said.
Ducks Unlimited has hired local contractor Clem Schlueter to work alongside Ducks Unlimited engineers in the restoration project. Schlueter has a five man crew currently changing levee boundaries and moving a lot of dirt. The plan is to finish the restoration project by the end of September.
Whitson says the weather has been cooperative.
“It’s not good to be in a drought and be this dry, but for this project it’s really working out well,” Whitson said. “Don’t blame us if things are too dry.”
When the ducks migrate to Swan Lake in the late summer and fall Whitson and his staff will survey to see how many ducks are using the refuge. Surveys start out monthly, but will become daily during peak times. According to Whitson, duck use can be as high as 3 to 6 million per year.
Currently the refuge has been stocking up on food for the ducks. The refuge has a large amount of millet and smartweed for the ducks. The hot weather has contributed to the high quantity of food for the ducks.
Ducks Unlimited manager of conservation programs Mark Flashpohler has been working with Whitson on the project at Swan Lake. According to Flashpohler, Missouri has lost much of its natural wetland habitats.
Over the past 15 years Ducks Unlimited has been doing similar projects all over Missouri to restore wetland habitats. Currently, there is another project happening at the Clarence Cannon Wildlife Refuge in Annada, Mo.
The wetland restoration projects help protect migratory birds, as well as help groundwater recharge and promote recreational use of the land.
Flashpohler says wetlands are coming back.
“We’re turning land, which isn’t good for farming back into wetland areas,” Flashpohler said. “The wetlands are important for migratory birds.”