Trading Tractors for Tadpoles

During the summer of 2023, we took on the task of constructing three wetlands at two District locations. Fort Daniel Conservation Area, located east of Mt. Zion, is where one of the wetlands was constructed, and the other two at Friends Creek Conservation Area, located in the northern portion of Macon County near Cisco. This is one of the largest earthmoving projects the District has done in-house; every member of the Operations staff had a role in this construction project. The District has some heavy earthmoving equipment, but a project of this scale required the rental of a dozer and a site haul truck to be able to move the large quantity of soil required to build the retaining dams and basins.

This project was a joint effort with the City of Decatur to help filter runoff from farm fields in the Lake Decatur Watershed. The two District locations were selected due to their high level of runoff from adjacent agricultural production fields. The wetlands will filter nitrates and phosphates, as well as other micronutrients, from the runoff. The new wetlands will also act as a trap for silt particles floating in the water and prevent them from reaching Lake Decatur.

Not only are these wetlands a benefit for the clean water of Lake Decatur, they will add a great habitat for many animals that live on these District sites. Insects, frogs, salamanders, snakes, turtles, birds, and deer are just a few animals that will use these new wetlands. We plan to plant some wetland vegetation this spring to add diversity to the habitat. Future plans are being made to build a trail system that will allow hikers to get an up-close and personal view of the wetlands and the wildlife that use them.

One nice feature to these wetlands is that they have a control structure built into them. This will allow District staff to manage the water level throughout the year. The wetlands can also be drained to dig out sediment and perform other maintenance needs. The new wetlands are a great feature added to these locations, and will help filter water entering Lake Decatur for many years to come.

by Phil Julius

Published On: February 15, 2024