Archived Story

Access changes designed to improve duck habitat

Published 11:50am Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Construction workers prepare the site for a sedimentation pond, between Lake Christina and Pelican Lake, near Ashby.

The public access at Lake Christina, along Highway 82 southeast of Ashby, is a busy place these days. Construction is underway to prepare for a drawdown of the lake in 2011. The goal is to improve water quality and see ducks return to what conservationists say was once a vibrant waterfowl migration habitat.

“We’re off to a good start,” said Ducks Unlimited Construction Manager Matt Olson on Thursday, Oct. 7, under sunny skies. “This is a better work environment than the rain we experienced in previous days. This entire area, at the public access, will look a lot difference a year from now, from what it looks like today.”

The $1.5 million project is made possible by a 2009 grant to Ducks Unlimited from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund. The recommendation came from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

Local advocates for the project, including County Commissioner John Lindquist of rural Dalton, have expressed their enthusiasm for improving water quality and seeing ducks return to Lake Christina.

“We want to see Lake Christina in its former glory again,” said Lindquist, president of the Christina-Ina-Anka Lake Association.

This project, in rural Ashby, is made possible by Minnesota voters who approved the legacy amendment in 2008. Their yes votes established the dedicated funding measure.

The Minnesota State Legislature, in turn, created the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The council is charged with recommending projects and expenditures from the fund to the legislature that restores, enhance or protects wetlands, prairies, forests and other fish and wildlife habitats in Minnesota.

“Lake Christina fits nicely into this mission statement,” said Olson.

Jim Cox, vice-chair of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, said that Lake Christina is an example of what the council wants to do with Outdoor Heritage Fund money.

“When this project is completed, people will have a tangible result for their investment,” said Cox.

Waterfowl habitat on Lake Christina recovered after fish toxicant applications in 1987 and 2003 that reduced fish abundance in the lake. Both treatments dramatically improved water clarity and aquatic duck food production.

In 1994, the lake had 105,000 canvasbacks, similar to the number of birds it supported in the 1940s before the hydrology of the lake was altered by the construction of dams. Later, an electric fish barrier was installed to prevent invasive fish from entering the lake and degrading the habitat.

Unfortunately, adverse conditions in the lake returned. This caused plants to disappear, along with the aquatic invertebrates that supported abundant numbers of ducks.

Nonetheless, Lake Christina conservationists sought alternative solutions.

“With all the dramatic recovery efforts that have been conducted in the past, Lake Christina caught the imagination of many Minnesotans,” Cox said.

Today, Lake Christina enhancement is a team effort that includes Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Christina-Ina-Anka Lake Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pioneer Heritage Conservation Trust, Pelican Lake Property Owners Association, Flint Hills Resources and the McKnight Foundation.

Lindquist and others have an overall sentiment that includes preserving the heritage of Lake Christina and a desire to see the lake as it had been when it support of tens of thousands of canvasbacks.

The DNR says that in prior years Lake Christina served as a nationally significant stopover area for ducks on their way to breeding and wintering grounds.

After lake drawdown begins in 2011, a permanent electric pump station will allow the DNR to periodically draw down water levels in Lake Christina when needed to enhance its aquatic ecology for ducks and other migratory birds.

The project is part of Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes Initiative and the Minnesota DNR’s Duck Recovery Plan. These cooperative efforts call for the enhancement, restoration and protection of shallow lakes and large marshes for both waterfowl migration and brood-rearing habitat.

Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest nonprofit organization, dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres, thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters.

Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today and tomorrow.

By Tom HintgenDaily Journal The public access at Lake Christina, along Highway 82 southeast of Ashby, is a busy place these days. Construction is underway to prepare for a drawdown of the lake in 2011. The goal is to improve water quality and see ducks return to what conservationists say was once a vibrant waterfowl migration habitat. “We’re off to a good start,” said Ducks Unlimited Construction Manager Matt Olson on Thursday, Oct. 7, under sunny skies. “This is a better work environment than the rain we experienced in previous days. This entire area, at the public access, will look a lot difference a year from now, from what it looks like today.” The $1.5 million project is made possible by a 2009 grant to Ducks Unlimited from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund. The recommendation came from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Local advocates for the project, including County Commissioner John Lindquist of rural Dalton, have expressed their enthusiasm for improving water quality and seeing ducks return to Lake Christina. “We want to see Lake Christina in its former glory again,” said Lindquist, president of the Christina-Ina-Anka Lake Association. This project, in rural Ashby, is made possible by Minnesota voters who approved the legacy amendment in 2008. Their yes votes established the dedicated funding measure. The Minnesota State Legislature, in turn, created the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The council is charged with recommending projects and expenditures from the fund to the legislature that restores, enhance or protects wetlands, prairies, forests and other fish and wildlife habitats in Minnesota. “Lake Christina fits nicely into this mission statement,” said Olson. Jim Cox, vice-chair of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, said that Lake Christina is an example of what the council wants to do with Outdoor Heritage Fund money. “When this project is completed, people will have a tangible result for their investment,” said Cox. Waterfowl habitat on Lake Christina recovered after fish toxicant applications in 1987 and 2003 that reduced fish abundance in the lake. Both treatments dramatically improved water clarity and aquatic duck food production. In 1994, the lake had 105,000 canvasbacks, similar to the number of birds it supported in the 1940s before the hydrology of the lake was altered by the construction of dams. Later, an electric fish barrier was installed to prevent invasive fish from entering the lake and degrading the habitat. Unfortunately, adverse conditions in the lake returned. This caused plants to disappear, along with the aquatic invertebrates that supported abundant numbers of ducks. Nonetheless, Lake Christina conservationists sought alternative solutions. “With all the dramatic recovery efforts that have been conducted in the past, Lake Christina caught the imagination of many Minnesotans,” Cox said. Today, Lake Christina enhancement is a team effort that includes Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Christina-Ina-Anka Lake Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pioneer Heritage Conservation Trust, Pelican Lake Property Owners Association, Flint Hills Resources and the McKnight Foundation. Lindquist and others have an overall sentiment that includes preserving the heritage of Lake Christina and a desire to see the lake as it had been when it support of tens of thousands of canvasbacks. The DNR says that in prior years Lake Christina served as a nationally significant stopover area for ducks on their way to breeding and wintering grounds. After lake drawdown begins in 2011, a permanent electric pump station will allow the DNR to periodically draw down water levels in Lake Christina when needed to enhance its aquatic ecology for ducks and other migratory birds. The project is part of Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes Initiative and the Minnesota DNR’s Duck Recovery Plan. These cooperative efforts call for the enhancement, restoration and protection of shallow lakes and large marshes for both waterfowl migration and brood-rearing habitat. Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest nonprofit organization, dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres, thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today and tomorrow.

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