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New Pipestem manager plans habitat projects

James Dixon, the new manager at Pipestem Dam for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will definitely face new challenges at this job than he saw at his previous employment.

Dixon was part of a team with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Guam charged with attempting to control and prevent the spread of the invasive brown tree snake. The tree snake is native to Australia and likely got transported to Guam during or after World War II with freight. While the snake is not considered a threat to humans, it has destroyed much of the bird population on Guam. Officials are attempting to ensure the species does not spread to other Pacific Islands like Hawaii, Dixon said.

While we do not have invasive poisonous snakes in North Dakota, we do have snow. This is the first place Dixon has lived where snow remains on the ground all winter.

"In Guam, its 90 degrees every day with near 100 percent humidity," Dixon said, gesturing out the window of his office at the snow. "I'm not going to complain about this. We're very happy to be here."

Dixon, who grew up in Springfield, Mo., worked his early career there.

"I worked as a wildlife biologist," he said. "Working with habitat programs in Missouri."

That is going to be his goal going forward as he works at Pipestem Dam.

"Bob (Martin) has done great work over the past decades here," Dixon said. "I'm going to work on native vegetation restoration."

Martin continues to work part time in the transition to Dixon as the new manager.

Recent snowpack measurements by Martin indicated an average of 16.6 inches of snow on the ground in the watershed north of Pipestem and Jamestown dams. The snow had a water equivalent of 2.6 inches of moisture.

A more detailed flood forecast is scheduled to be released next week by the National Weather Service.

Dixon said he is still in the process of learning the job at Pipestem. He is being trained on the gages and gates used to control the releases from Jamestown and Pipestem dams and the other aspects of managing the reservoirs.

Much of his time has also been taken with snow removal along the road at Pipestem Dam.

"With the snowcover, I haven't seen every corner of the place," he said. "But I love what I'm seeing out here."