Work continues for Ducks Unlimited in Idaho’s Bruneau Valley.

Scenic view of the Bruneau Duck Pond. (Photo by Josh White, IDFG/USFWS)

With the award of the ‘Middle Snake River Conservation Area’ North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant in 2009, Ducks Unlimited initiated and has maintained an ongoing focus on restoring wetland and waterfowl habitat in the Bruneau Valley area. Working with private landowners, Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), Idaho Power Company (IPC), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the CJ Strike Wildlife Management Area (CJSWMA), DU will have restored over 1,200 acres of waterfowl habitat putting more than $1.1 million on the ground by the end of 2019.

Overview of completed or pending DU projects in the Greater Bruneau Valley.

Bruneau Delta

In 2017, DU completed a project on IPC lands managed within the CJ Strike WMA. A levee and water control structure had fallen into disrepair preventing active management of the wetland feature. Additionally and beneficially, a family of beavers had established an active presence in the area. Combining IDFG and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) funds with DU and IPC in-kind service, DU refurbished critical portions of the levee and replaced the primary water control structure outfitting it with beaver deterrent infrastructure.

DU then outfitted a considerable breach in the levee with a beaver dam analog infrastructure, intending to attract beavers to dam the breach naturally. Ultimately, the beavers will assume day to day management of the water, while IPC and IDFG will maintain the means of assuming control for purposes of annual management and maintenance. In the end, 182 acres of seasonal and perennial wetland habitat with public access were restored.

Overview of the Bruneau Delta project boundary on CJSWMA.
Beaver analog dam that was installed in the breach of the existing levee. (Photo by Chris Colson, DU)
New water control structure outfitted beaver deterrent infrastructure. (Photo by Chris Colson, DU)

Bruneau Duck Pond

In conjunction with IDFG and BLM, final project designs are complete and project permits are nearly secured for the restoration of the Bruneau Duck Pond and accompanying features associated with a historical channel of the Snake River. Located on the Snake River arm of the CJSWMA, the project site is situated on BLM lands managed by IDFG. DU was awarded a small NAWCA grant in 2017 focusing exclusively on the CJSWMA. DU will replace dilapidated water management infrastructure reestablishing hydrology and wetland management capabilities on 290 acres of migratory, breeding, and rearing wetland habitat on public access lands. Construction is scheduled for late summer 2019. Additionally, IDFG is actively removing invasive Russian olives restoring critical seasonal wet meadow habitat and removing predatory perches within the wetland feature.

Overview of the Bruneau Duck Pond project boundary on CJSWMA.
Scenic view of the Bruneau Duck Pond. (Photo by Josh White, IDFG/USFWS)
Removal of invasive Russian olive at the Bruneau Duck Pond project site. (Photo by Josh White, IDFG/USFWS)

Hot Springs

Utilizing the recently awarded small NAWCA grant, DU is working with IDFG to restore critical seasonal wet meadow habitat for spring staging waterfowl on the Hot Springs Unit. The goal of the project is to utilize historical Bruneau River side channels and installing and/or replacing water management infrastructure to reestablish floodplain hydrology across the project site. Project designs are finalized and permits are being secured in anticipation of late summer 2019 construction. Upon completion, 482 acres of seasonal wet meadow and floodplain habitat, the most critically limited waterfowl habitat type in southern Idaho and the northern Great Basin, will be restored on CJSWMA public access lands.

 

Overview of the Hot Creek Ranch project boundary on CJSWMA.
DU Engineer Brian Marker discusses project plans with IDFG staff on the Hot Creek Ranch project site. (Photo by Chris Colson, DU)

Highway 51

Directly upstream and adjacent to the Bruneau Delta Project, the Highway 51 Project is a small-scale endeavor with IDFG where DU is presently designing a series of ditch plugs to restore hydrology to the floodplain. A remnant of historical agricultural water management infrastructure, an existing ditch continues to serve as a draining conveyance removing surface and shallow groundwater from the site. The proposed ditch plugs will prevent the draining maintaining water on the site for the benefit of spring-staging migratory waterfowl and upland game bird cover later in the season. Construction is anticipated in late summer 2019 and will restore floodplain hydrology on 136 acres of public access lands. It is expected that restoration of this site will be beneficial to the Bruneau Delta project as well.

Overview of the Highway 51 project boundary on CJSWMA.