By SARAH KLOEPPING
Herald Times Reporter, Manitowoc
COLLINS, Wis. (AP) — Portions of Collins Marsh Wildlife Area likely will have a new look throughout summer — dry.
The Department of Natural Resources is conducting a drawdown of the Collins Marsh flowage during the next few months to stimulate growth of annual plants, facilitate the breakdown of organic material and diversify the plant and invertebrate community of the marsh.
Wildlife biologist Aaron Buchholz said a manual draining of the water is needed because a dam, which was installed in the 1960s, contains the water in the marsh and prevents natural fluctuation from occurring.
“It’s that disturbance that’s really important to the health of a wetland system,” he said. “Without that disturbance of a major change in water fluctuation, things get kind of stagnant. So by doing these drawdowns, we’re attempting to reinvigorate the system and make it more productive again.”
The drawdown process includes opening the dam near the south end of the marsh, allowing for water to flow downstream through Mud Creek. Once enough water is removed and the ground begins to dry, new plant life will grow from seeds already in the soil, and plants that were uprooted from heavy rains will be able to again make contact with the soil.
“In another month, it’s going to look actually kind of green out there if the rainfall amounts stay about what they’re doing right now,” he said. “Having about a 50/50 mix of open water and emergent vegetation is kind of what we’re striving for out here. Because we haven’t done a drawdown since 2003, we’ve kind of lost some of that.”
Buchholz said the plan was to begin the drawdown earlier in the summer, but rainy conditions in May and June delayed the process. He said if the department wasn’t able to have a good portion of the water removed by mid-July, it would have held off on the project until next year.
“It was just really problematic,” he said. “You need to have enough growing days for these plants to establish and go into seed before you start putting water back on them.”
The plan is to close the gates of the dam near Sept. 1 to allow for water to fill back up in the flowage.
“But that’s completely dependent on precipitation and water coming into the system,” Buchholz said.
He said if the area receives a typical amount of precipitation, the amount of water in the marsh should be nearly back to normal by fall. And the added vegetation will help encourage more waterfowl to utilize the area.
“When we put water back over the plants it’s like setting the table for waterfowl,” he said. “That’s an incredible food source for them. In the fall, this is a very important migration stop for them.”
Information from: Herald Times Reporter, http://www.htrnews.com