Arrowwood flood recovery won’t be soonARROWWOOD NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE — At a cost of $250,000 and hundreds of man hours Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge headquarters was as prepared as it could be for high water this spring. It just wasn’t enough.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
ARROWWOOD NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE — At a cost of $250,000 and hundreds of man hours Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge headquarters was as prepared as it could be for high water this spring.
It just wasn’t enough.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel came from all over the region to help. They brought with them equipment and manpower to construct three dikes to protect the low-lying refuge headquarters and outbuildings bordering Arrowwood Lake.
“There were 30 people here from other refuges,” said Kim Hanson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project leader for the Arrowwood Complex. “That $250,000 didn’t all come out of our budget. A large portion of it was paid by the stations sending equipment and manpower.”
Dike construction was hampered by blizzards, rain, runoff and foot-deep mud. Along with the outside help, Hanson said the Arrowwood staff worked long and tirelessly to protect the facilities and now with the cleanup.
“I’m very proud of my staff. They pitched in and did even more than was asked of them,” he said. “Cleanup assistance is harder to come by than flood assistance.”
But two weak spots in the primary dike were breached as the lake rose and the ice broke up. The dike was planned to withstand water up to an elevation of 1,453 mean sea level except at the boat house and one corner of the dike close by an outbuilding.
“We couldn’t get the dike high enough in the two areas,” he said. “And we knew the wave action would take it (the dike) out if the water hit 1,453.”
A secondary dike at 1,455 msl couldn’t take the ice and wave action either and it too failed, even though the water crested at 1,454 msl. As water flooded the area the only protection was a third dike surrounding the headquarters office and visitors center.
“Without that dike, there would have been a foot of water in the offices,” Hanson said.
Shops, garages, storage buildings and a bunkhouse for summer staff were inundated. The buildings and fuel tanks had been emptied; any equipment or tools not needed for flood protection were moved to the Chase Lake Refuge headquarters. By April 22, the Arrowwood headquarters was surrounded by water, the refuge unrecognizable. Jamestown Reservoir further south and Arrowwood Lake had become one huge body of water.
Before the lake rose, overland flooding washed out the box culvert on the auto tour road. Hanson doesn’t know when the tour route will be re-established. Most of the signage on refuge land is broken or gone and the wildlife viewing deck needs repair. The Warbler Woodland nature area went under water, taking picnic tables downriver and destroying the area. When the water level dropped it left behind debris, which has yet to be cleaned out.
“Warbler Woodland is a low priority for us,” Hanson said. “People can drive in but it’s not been maintained. We’re still hauling out the dike material.”
Although the water control structures between Arrowwood Lake and Jamestown Reservoir were under 12 feet of water at one point, they weren’t seriously damaged by flooding. Hanson said the structures on Depuy Marsh, Jim Lake and Mud Lake were designed to be in a flood every 30 years or so.
Little else on the refuge is back to normal.
“The high water lasted for months and cleanup will probably last for years,” he said. “Everything we do now takes longer with a lot more planning.”
Wildlife appears to have adapted to the many differences on the refuge this year. Much of the shoreline may have disappeared but shorebirds followed their usual migration pattern, adapting to a new shoreline. Deprived of their usual nesting areas, the swallows have tried to take over buildings at the Arrowwood headquarters. They’ve nearly succeeded with the bunkhouse, which has been condemned as uninhabitable for humans and will most likely be torn down. It was built as the first Arrowwood headquarters in the 1930s when the refuge was established.
While cleanup and recovery of the area go on, Hanson said, it’s also time to think about the future. The Arrowwood headquarters has been flooded out twice in 12 years and the water was 8.5 feet higher than in 1997.
“We know it will flood again and we don’t see the point in trying to rebuild in this location,” he said.
Instead, they hope to build a new facility on the hill overlooking Arrowwood Lake at an estimated cost of $10 million. If the funding can be found to do so, salvageable buildings would be moved and the area developed for visitor use.
“Arrowwood Refuge will never be the same,” Hanson said. “We hope it will be better.”
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com