Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently completed a 350 acre restoration on White Lake in central Stanislaus County. Funding was provided by a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant, USFWS, and DU.
This backwater lake on the Haggemann tract of San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge (SJRNWR) was historically a seasonally flooded lake, marsh, and riparian forest along the San Joaquin River. In the 1930s, the site was drained for agriculture and was farmed until the 1990s until a 1997 flood prompted the sale and transfer of the site to the USFWS. Over a decade, River Partners and USFWS restored over 1,000 acres of riparian forest, but floods in 2006, 2010, and 2011 illustrated the need to manage floodwaters. During these devastating floods, USFWS lacked the infrastructure to manage or drain these flooded sites efficiently which often led to fish stranding and tree mortality.
The White Lake project was the first step to address USFWS concerns on how to manage floodwaters. The scope of the project was to divide the lake basin into three managed units. One unit would be managed seasonally for moist-soil while two other units would be managed as a semi-permanent emergent marsh.
New water control structures in each unit were installed to facilitate off-site run-off and to manage water levels between the three units. Construction was completed in October 2016, and the site got its first test when the site was flooded in February 2017. DU is currently designing phase II which will add 180 acres of restored wetlands to the White Lake complex and is planning to go into construction in spring 2018.