|COOPERATIVE CONSERVATION CASE STUDY|
|North Lake Basin Wetlands Restoration |
|Restoring Waterfowl Habitat with Reclaimed Groundwater|
|Project Summary: Contaminated ground water is cleaned with innovative technology and used to restore wetlands in a critical migratory waterfowl flyway. |
|Spray irrigation system operating to restore wetlands, enhance migratory bird habitat and clean up contaminated groundwater at Utica, Nebraska.
(Photo courtesy of Argonne National Lab)|
The 364-acre North Lake Basin Wildlife Management Area lies in a critical migratory waterfowl flyway in south-central Nebraska. Due to farming, development, and other causes, waterfowl habitat in these wetlands has fallen by more than 95 percent over time. Public and private agencies formed a partnership to restore the historic wetlands, but they lacked a critical resource—water.
Meanwhile, in nearby Utica, Nebraska, scientists were investigating ways to restore groundwater that was contaminated with carbon tetrachloride, once used to fumigate stored grains. Federal agencies and local partners saw a way to solve two problems: treat the groundwater, and then use it to re-create and replenish disappearing wetlands. The University of Nebraska developed new technology to extract water from underground and spray it into the air, a process that would cause as much as 98 percent of the carbon tetrachloride to dissipate harmlessly into the atmosphere.
Examples of Key Partners
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, USDA Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region VII, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Nebraska Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Ducks Unlimited, Prairie Plains Resource Institute, Village of Utica, Nebraska, Seward County, Nebraska, and others.
Results and Accomplishments
The USDA successfully pilot tested the technology and completed construction of a new cleanup system in 2004. Pumping wells in Utica are connected to a pipeline that delivers groundwater to the North Lake Basin Wildlife Management Area. There, two spray irrigation systems treat the water and deliver it to the wetlands.This system, operating seasonally during the next ten to fifteen years, will deliver the equivalent of one foot-deep water spread over 3,600 acres.
The plan is already working: the contamination is being removed and the birds are returning. Many partners made this project possible: the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which owns most of the North Lake Basin Wildlife Management Area and determines the location and rate of water application; USEPA Region VII and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, which reviewed and concurred with the project’s technical design; citizens of Utica and Seward County, who allowed access for well installation and wetlands reconstruction; Ducks Unlimited, which helped purchase the Wildlife Management Area and monitors bird populations; the Prairie Plains Resource Institute, which provided prairie seed for construction areas; and Nebraska Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, which was instrumental in coordinating interactions among the partners.