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Restoring refuges - Wildlife refuges benefit from stimulus funds

RELATED ARTICLE: Stimulus funds bring Caspian tern project to Siskiyou County, Siskiyou Daily News 8/12/09. "...the Tulelake reserve rock island’s cost is approximately $1.1 million, the Orems unit rock island’s cost is approximately $650,000 and the Sheepy Lake floating island’s cost is approximately $2.3 million...an estimated colony of 10,000 nesting pairs of Caspian terns on Rice Island in the Columbia River were consuming approximately 6 million to 25 million salmonid smolts per year, according to a 1999 USACE report."

By Lee Juillerat, Herald and News October 15, 2009

Submitted photo - A new two-acre island for Caspian terns, shown before it was flooded, was built at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Another island was built at the Lower Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The project was funded through the Army Corps of Engineers with a stimulus grant and cost

Klamath Basin refuges, along with the birds, waterfowl and farmers that use them, are benefiting from federal stimulus grants.

Ron Cole, manager of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, said a recently completed project provides habitat for Caspian terns while a newly awarded contract will help expand the complex’s Walking Wetlands Restoration project.

“It helps us move our water more efficiently and effectively,” Cole said of the Walking Wetlands project, which includes constructing levees at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Walking wetlands

The Walking Wetlands Restoration Project builds wetland infrastructure on refuge lands leased to local farmers. Core trenching and refill is a practice used in the construction of levees in highly organic soils, and ensures no large cracks exist under the levee system used in the project.


When completed, the project will create a block of 1,300 acres to be flooded for two years beginning later this fall and winter.

The land will be returned to crops for a period of three to five years. The lands will then be flooded for two years, repeating the cycle of Walking Wetlands. Cole said the Walking Wetlands program has added about 7,500 acres of new wetlands.

Sierra Equipment Rental of Glenn, Calif., is doing core trenching and refill for the $29,227 project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“This contract to fund Walking Wetlands is vitally important to wildlife and is helping rural communities in the Klamath Basin,” Cole said.

Cole said the Walking Wetlands program reduced the use of chemicals used to combat pests and noxious weeds, with benefits lasting from three to 10 years following the rotation.

'It is not often that we can demonstrate significant environmental benefits while at the same time improve rural agricultural economics.' - Ron Cole, manager, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges

Caspian tern islands

An earlier stimulus project helped fund two rock islands for Caspian terns, one at the Tule Lake refuge and another at the neighboring Lower Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Cole said another floating island is planned on the Lower Klamath as part of the same project.

The two-acre tern island on the Tule Lake Refuge cost $936,000 to build. The one-acre island at the Lower Klamath Lake refuge cost $630,000, and the expected cost of the planned floating island is $2.5 million.

The projects are funded by the Army Corps of Engineers through a stimulus grant.

The Caspian tern projects are part of a larger effort designed to provide more habitat for terns and reduce their impacts in the Columbia River Basin.

Studies showed that a colony of an estimated 10,000 nesting pairs of terns on a Columbia River island consumed from 6 million to 25 million salmonid smolts annually, which has impacted salmon populations.

Along with making that island habitat less attractive, new tern sites were developed and are under development in Oregon and California, including two near Adel and Summer Lake in Lake County.

“They’ll come in next spring and summer,” Cole predicted of the terns, noting the species already uses Clear Lake, “so this is a pretty logical place.”

About the Tule Lake Wildlife Refuge

The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1928 and is managed as part of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The refuge spans 39,116 acres of mostly open water and croplands.

Farmers lease about 17,000 acres of the refuge under a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation-administered program.

Refuge permit holders farm another 1,900 acres of cereal grain and alfalfa.

The crops, along with waste grain and potatoes from the lease program, are a major food source for migrating and wintering waterfowl.


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