Past Actions

Building Pond 10 b/w photo

 "Many of the water areas of the Metcalf Refuge are surrounded by stands of Ponderosa Pine and Northern cottonwoods. Many of these stands have been killed with the building of the pond areas. These dead stands of trees provide excellent brooding sites for woodduck and hooded mergansers" (1983 Refuge narrative)

Building Pond 5 and 6 Dike b/w photoAfter establishment of the refuge in 1964, an extensive system of levees, ditches, and water control structures were constructed to capture and manage the available water supply with a primary purpose of providing migration and nesting habitat for waterfowl. By the late 1980s, more than 1,000 acres had been partially or completely impounded in 14 ponds for managed wetland units. Today, these ponds range in size from 8 acres to more than 200 acres, and their water levels are seasonally managed for waterfowl and shorebirds. Additionally, tributaries and natural springs have been altered by dams or weirs that have allowed the direction or level of surface waterflow to be manipulated. With 24 water claims and 1 water permit, the refuge has the right to 34,209.38 acre-feet of water per year to use for habitat management purposes. The diverted water provides feeding, resting, and nesting habitat for migratory birds, wetland-related wildlife, and other resident wildlife.

Heitmeyer et al 2010 summarized (source: Refuge narratives) the major wetland management and development activities by Refuge staff through the 1990's:

Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge was authorized by Migratory Bird Conservation Commission on December 10, 1963.

Newly Built Pond 5 b/w photoThe first parcel was purchased in February 1964.

In the mid-1960s, evidence revealed that the west Barn Slough area, a pre-refuge diversion structure, was sending water through the McPherson and Nickerson Creeks (now Ditches).

Ponds 1–4 were completed in the summer of 1966 (refuge files). By 1970, Pond 5 was impounded by forming the existing county road into a levee. Ponds 6, 8, and 10 were constructed between 1967 and 1970, judging from photos from this period.

In the mid-1960s, no dikes or structures existed on Francois Slough and North Burnt Fork Creek was unimpeded on the refuge. By 1970, three water control structures were constructed on these waterways, and they remain in place today.

Ponds 11–13 were built between 1970 and 1973, as refuge photos show the north ponds in the flood of 1974. Pond E, which was a small impoundment on Rogmans Creek near Pond 11, was likely built around the same time. Pond E was expanded by the creation of Otter Pond in 1989.

Building Pond 10 Dike b/w photoIn the early 1980s, the refuge focused on Three Mile Creek sedimentation issues. This creek flowed into Pond 11 and out through Pond 13 to the river. Two supply ditches were cleaned out in 1985. A bypass channel with three sediment ponds was constructed in 1984 to lead the creek directly to the river. These ponds filled quickly and were cleaned out in 1987.

By July 1988, the Pair Ponds were established as part of a rehabilitation project by the Montana Power Company. Pair Ponds comprise 10 acres and are up to 3 feet deep in some areas.

Otter Pond was built in 1989 as a solution to the sedimentation of the northern ponds from Three Mile Creek. An 18-inch diameter siphon was constructed to bring water from Pond 10 under Three Mile Creek bypass to supply water to Ponds 11, 12, and 13. This expanded the existing Pond E to about 65 surface acres.

In the early 1990s, ditch leveling was completed in Swamp Creek and Ponds 1, 3, 4, 11, and 12.