Arrowwood opens its doorsBirdwatchers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the country have a new destination on the plains with the opening of a visitors center and office complex at the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge. The facility was dedicated Thursday with a public open house scheduled for Saturday.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
ARROWWOOD NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, N.D. — Birdwatchers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the country have a new destination on the plains with the opening of a visitors center and office complex at the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge. The facility was dedicated Thursday with a public open house scheduled for Saturday.
“It’s hard to imagine the changes this will make,” said Greg Oliveira, deputy assistant regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This facility will become a destination for birders. It is hard to imagine what it will mean for the numbers of visitors here.”
The $5.6 million office facility is part of an $8 million dollar complex that includes storage and shop space for the department’s regional fire fighting capacity.
Discussion of a new facility was forced by flooding in 2009.
“I remember the day we knew the dikes were going to fail,” said Kim Hanson, project leader at the Arrowwood Refuge. “It was a pretty sad day and we certainly didn’t envision this new facility.”
Floodwaters inundated the entire complex of buildings that spring. Still, it wasn’t until the water threatened the facility again in 2010 that the project moved to a higher priority.
“We were looking at doing this with stimulus money,” said Greg Siekaniec, deputy director for policy for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “But this was not on the original list. Another flood situation in 2010 pushed the Office of Management and Budget to move it up the priority.”
Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the stimulus program, covered the cost of the office and visitors building. The other buildings of the complex were paid for with construction and maintenance money from the Fish and Wildlife operational budget.
“The thought process is we have to provide a safe working condition for our people,” Oliveira said. “We know from other centers that mold and mildew can make for an unsafe workplace.”
The Arrowwood complex becomes the newest in the facilities of the National Refuge System. The system that includes 63 refuges in North Dakota, the most of any state in the country.
“These facilities are important for wildlife conservation and for recreation,” Siekaniec said. “The National Wildlife Refuge System is a promise made to the American people that is being fulfilled every day.”
The building is also designed to be a showcase of energy efficient operations.
“This is a highly energy-efficient building designed and built by North Dakota contractors,” Oliveira said.
Oliveira said the building is designed to meet the Silver Certification of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, although the testing process to meet that certification is continuing. LEED recognizes buildings that utilize energy and building materials to certain levels of efficiency.
The parking lot lights feature solar chargers and the building is heated by a geothermal system among other environmentally friendly construction techniques.
The public will have an opportunity to check out the facility during the open house from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. The open house includes guided tours, refreshments and children’s activities. The visitor’s center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends through the hunting seasons in November.
Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge Complex employs nine people full time but also houses the regional office for the refuge system, which includes another four employees. Summer seasonal workers increase the facility’s staff to about 45 people.
“After being disrupted by flooding for three years, we’re looking forward to getting back to our main job of helping conserve these wonderful resources,” Hanson said.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by email at email@example.com