The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced it will be conducting a full drawdown on Washington Creek Flowage, part of the 515-acre, DNR-managed Washington Creek Wildlife Area in Rusk County.
The drop in water levels is necessary to prepare the site for upcoming construction slated for fall 2023 into early summer 2024. The project will adjust the current water control structure by shortening and widening the inlet pipe and adding a trash rack to the inlet. These improvements will allow safer and more flexible water level management, particularly during spring runoff or when the pipe gets plugged with debris.
The drawdown is necessary to complete construction, but drawdowns also mimic a natural part of the wetland cycle, reinvigorating the ecosystem by exposing areas to sunlight that are usually underwater. This allows many seed-producing plants to grow, providing an abundant food source for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife. The DNR expects water levels to stabilize by Oct. 1 to minimize impacts to reptiles and amphibians as they prepare to overwinter.
A drawdown was also conducted in spring 2022, giving wildlife managers the opportunity to observe ecosystem effects prior to the construction project. Shorebirds, sandhill cranes and other wildlife used the exposed mudflats in the spring, and after raising water levels throughout the summer, many ducks, geese and swans used the flowage during the summer and fall, feeding on the bounty of seeds that had been produced as a result of the drawdown.
Once the planned construction project is complete, water levels will be slowly raised during the 2024 growing season as vegetation develops. Similar to what was observed in 2022, this will create an optimal mix of open water, cover and food available for wildlife during fall migration.
During the drawdown period, the DNR suggests visiting other public lands in the area, including Lea Lake in the Rusk County Forest, Ten Mile Creek and Potato Creek wildlife areas in southwestern Rusk County and Pershing Wildlife Area in northwestern Taylor County.