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Buchanan County wetland to remain dry

Structure drained to facilitate installation of new water control structures

Canada geese graze on grass emerging earlier this month in a drained wetland at Buchanan County’s Koutny Pond near Brandon. The wetland was drained to facilitate installation of new control structures, and it will remain dry for at least a year to permit re-establishment of native vegetation. (Dan Cohen photo)
Canada geese graze on grass emerging earlier this month in a drained wetland at Buchanan County’s Koutny Pond near Brandon. The wetland was drained to facilitate installation of new control structures, and it will remain dry for at least a year to permit re-establishment of native vegetation. (Dan Cohen photo)

The wetland at Koutny Pond/Hoffman Woods east of Brandon is dry and will remain so for up to a year, the Buchanan County Conservation Department has announced.

The 8-acre wetland, constructed in 1994, has been drained to facilitate installation of new water control structures, Conservation Director Dan Cohen said.

The wetland will remain dry, he said, for at least a year to enable staff to remove some of the invading canary grass and to give nature time to rejuvenate diverse plant life.

Once that’s accomplished, the water control structure will be used to allow the water to return, and the life of the shallow marsh once again will flourish, Cohen said.

“When the marsh was first created, it hosted a lot of waterfowl, but the numbers and species diversity have gradually declined,” he said.

Cohen said the control structure initially installed in the wetland was difficult to operate, and the intake and pipe that fed water from the lake to the wetland rusted and filled with rock and sediment.

With those impediments, he said, emergent plants died, leaving mudflats in their place, and invasive canary grass took over one end of the marsh, replacing native plant species. The marsh gradually lost much of its plant and animal diversity, he said.

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The Conservation Department consulted with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to devise a solution. The experts recommended a new, smaller, user-friendly control structure to manage the wetland and a new intake and pipe for channeling water from the pond to the wetland.

A “Partners for Wildlife” agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service provided nearly all the material costs, which amounted to about half the cost of the $9,000 project, Cohen said.

Once federal funds were secured, the project progressed rather quickly. In the last half of May, channels were cut to allow the pond level to go down and to help drain the marsh. The new structures were installed in mid-June, and the pond is slowly rising to normal levels.

Cohen said the invasive canary grass is 8 feet tall and extremely dense. “We’ll burn it first and then treat it with herbicide,” he said.

Koutny Pond originated as a borrow pit created during the construction of Interstate 380, which runs along its western border just east of Brandon. At 15 acres, it is the largest public fishing pond in Buchanan County.

Besides the pond and wetland, the property includes a reconstructed prairie, forest and upland areas open to hunting and a segment of Bear Creek.

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