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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Making More Migratory Bird Habitat in Indiana

Region 3, September 13, 2013
Contractor starting stream relocation project.
Contractor starting stream relocation project. - Photo Credit: n/a
Newly finished relocated channel.
Newly finished relocated channel. - Photo Credit: n/a

More migratory bird habitat for mallards and blue-winged teal is coming to Indiana thanks to the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. In March 2013, a Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service met on site with the landowner and a representative from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake and River Enhancement Program to discuss the potential for restoring approximately 12 acres of drained wetland habitat on private property located in Elkhart County, Indiana. The project is in the Northeast Indiana Wetland and Grassland Priority Focus Area for the Service and drains into Lake Michigan via the St. Joseph River.

The existing wetland basin was currently drained by numerous private field tiles and a legal county drain through the center of the basin. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake and River Enhancement Program had provided cost share funding to the Elkhart County Drainage Board to design and permit a stream relocation project that would reroute the existing stream to the east of the wetland to maintain upstream drainage and allow for restoration of the wetland hydrology.

Approximately 725 feet of legal county drain would need to be relocated to restore the wetland basin. Once U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 404 permits and Section 401 Certification was permitted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the final project design was completed in July 2013 and the Drainage Board hired a qualified local contractor to construct the stream relocation and wetland restoration project. Construction of the new stream channel was completed in early August by the team, with seeding and straw erosion control blankets installed. One of the conditions of the permits was that the site needed to be successfully vegetated prior to the stream channel being diverted into the new channel. Pending several more rain events, the contractor will be coming back to divert the existing channel into the newly relocated stream. This work should be completed in September 2013.

The project also involved the removal of numerous subsurface drainage tiles and also involved the installation of two water control structures to manage restored wetland hydrology. The Service biologist provided review of the proposed restoration design, coordinated with the contractor, and provided habitat recommendations to the landowner. Along with this expertise, the Service provided approximately $13,000 cost share towards the project, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife provided $1,500 towards wetland enhancement activities, and the state’s Lake and River Enhancement Program provided approximately $51,500 towards the stream relocation portion of the project.

Once completely established, the project will provide excellent migratory bird habitat and will benefit mallards and blue-winged teal. Partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies, along with and the willingness of a local landowner, allowed this project to happen. This project will hopefully set the example for working with local drainage boards and maintaining upstream drainage while still benefiting wildlife and water quality.

Learn more about what the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program can do for you: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/partners/ 

Contact Info: Scott Fetters, 574-267-5090, scott_fetters@fws.gov