Nature Conservancy digging to regain wetland from reclaimed farmland

(Note: It's fine for TNC to meddle with nature: "The two breaches aren't going to be ragged tears in the dikes. Rather they will be carefully groomed cuts -- 200 feet wide at the bottom and 400 feet wide at the top of the dikes," but just don't let anyone else -- like farmers or other private property owners -- try it! USFWS would be there in a New York Minute to apply arbitrary and capricious fines and maybe even jail time for such activities, were they done by ordinary citizens!)

October 2, 2003

By Dylan Darling

ddarling@heraldandnews.com  or 541-885-4471, 800-275-0982

http://www.heraldandnews.com

To submit a Letter to the Editor: heraldandnews@heraldandnews.com  An excavator this week was chewing a big hole in dikes constructed decades ago to create farmland on the marshy edges of Upper Klamath Lake.

Soon the lake's water will spill across fields that for years served as pastureland on Goose Bay Farms.

With the regained wetland, The Nature Conservancy is trying to establish new habitat for young, endangered suckers, said Leslie Bach, a hydrologist with the conservancy.

"The idea is to reconnect this property with Upper Klamath Lake," she said.

The conservancy bought the property as part of its purchase of the 2,700-acre Goose Bay Farms in 1999.

Once the dikes on the west and south edges of the property are breached, water will be able to flow to 300 acres of land behind them.

But because of the land's slope, the water will probably cover about half the parcel when the lake is full, Bach said.

The two breaches aren't going to be ragged tears in the dikes. Rather they will be carefully groomed cuts -- 200 feet wide at the bottom and 400 feet wide at the top of the dikes.

The standing water will be up to 3 feet deep, depending on the lake level. The wetland should be ideal habitat for suckers, Bach said.

She said the conservancy's "River Bend" project on the Williamson River has shown so far that juvenile suckers are drawn to shallow wetlands. The small fish use the wetlands as places to find shelter and food while they grow bigger.

Bach said there is a lack of shallow wetlands around the lake, because of the many dikes and levees. The conservancy will use the breaching of the Goosebay dikes to further evaluate how suckers respond to shallow wetland.

In all, the conservancy has about 7,500 acres on the Williamson River Delta and is working on restoring the land for sucker habitat. It bought the 4,800-acre Tulana Farms in 1996.

Bach said the wetlands will also provide several hundred additional acre-feet in storage.

The conservancy cooperated with the Klamath Tribes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, PacifiCorp, New Earth and others on the project, which should be done by the end of October.

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Caption: Erwin Miller, an excavator operator with R&C Rodgers Inc. of Klamath Falls, works to breach a dike on Goose Bay Farms near Modoc Point. The Nature Conservancy wants to open a 300-acre parcel to the waters of Upper Klamath Lake to create wetlands.

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