Accelerated Shallow Lake Restorations and Enhancements, Phase 1
This program will accelerate the improvement and protection of shallow lakes and large wetland habitat critical to migratory waterfowl and other wildlife in Minnesota by improving water quality and rejuvenating aquatic ecology in turbid shallow lake basins. DU will enhance eight (8) or more strategically-selected shallow lakes that have been legally designated by for wildlife management purposes by Minnesota DNR that total 6,000 wetland acres by engineering and implementing construction of water control structures, pumps, and fish barriers on their outlets. These structures will provide the Minnesota DNR and US Fish & Wildlife Service with water level control capability to conduct temporary, periodic draw-downs that will improve wetland habitat quality. DU will also engineer two or more additional shallow lake improvement projects for future implementation 2010 and 2011. As approved by the Council, DU will also use up to $400,000 in grant funding to secure permanent conservation easement(s) on 180 acres on one or more shallow lake to protect shoreland and help buffer basins important to waterfowl.
Shallow lakes and large wetlands throughout Minnesota have become degraded due to high, stable water levels, altered natural hydrology, lack of natural fish winterkill, and invasive animal and plant species. Through our Living Lakes Initiative, DU provides wetland bio-engineering assistance to help the Minnesota DNR and US Fish & Wildlife Service structurally improve shallow lakes outlets and enhance the habitat quality of wetlands throughout Minnesota. DU will implement 8 shallow lake projects previously engineered that will enhance nearly 6,000 acres of wetland habitat, and will complete final engineering plans of several additional projects for future implementation. The implementation of these 8 projects constitute the immediate backlog of complex shallow lake and large wetland water control structure and/or fish barrier projects previously engineered by DU for DNR and the Service. Structures will be constructed by private contractors hired by DU in fall 2009 (throughout competitive bid process) on public land or on private land under permanent easement with DNR or the Service, and structures will be subsequently used in 2010 by state or federal land management staff to conduct temporary draw-downs to improve shallow lake ecology and habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds by reducing invasive fish and rejuvenating aquatic plants and invertebrates. DU staff will provide final engineering and construction management oversight throughout the construction process, and will solicit competitive bids and award construction contracts to private firms to implement the projects. Basins will be slowly reflooded in 2011 or 2012 once aquatic plants become reestablished. This periodic, temporary water level "draw-down" management process simulates natural drought conditions that are vital to rejuvenating aquatic ecology in wetlands, and is routinely used by DNR and the Service. Support from private landowners and other stakeholders such as local sportsmen groups is secured in advance of project implementation through the DNR's wildlife lake designation process and lake management plan development process.
This grant will also fund DU bio-engineering staff that will assess turbid shallow lakes and develop new engineering plans for additional projects that can be implemented in the future. This will include all aspects of engineering (survey, design, plans and specifications), assisting state and federal agencies in assessing basins and securing structure or flowage easements from private landowners, permits, and assisting the legal "wildlife lake" designation process required to allow active water level management of additional shallow lakes. Funds to construct these additional shallow lake projects engineered through this grant will be subsequently requested from the LOHC in the future.
Du will also use up to $400,000 in grant funds to secure permanent conservation easements on 180 acres along a managed shallow lake to protect it's shoreland, including making 80 acres of restored prairie habitat now in CRP permanent. These easements will be held and annually monitored by DU. Long-term conservation easement stewardship funding will be provided by these grant funds, through donation from the private landowner to ensure future monitoring and management of lands protected under permanent easement. Conservation easements will protect sensitive shallow lake shoreland buffers, and limit future development and subdivision activities that can disrupt shallow lakes and complicate shallow lake water level management by agencies.
$2,528,000 in fiscal year 2010 is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Ducks Unlimited, Inc. or successor to restore and enhance shallow lake habitats. Up to $400,000 of this appropriation may be used for permanent easements related to shallow lake restorations and enhancements. A list of proposed easements and projects, describing the types and locations of easements, restorations, and enhancements, must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan. The commissioner of natural resources must agree to each easement, restoration, and enhancement.
Protect in easement 76 acres of wetlands, 103 acres of prairie and enhance 6,882 acres of wetlands