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Agreement could improve duck habitat in Kandiyohi Co., Minn.

WILLMAR -- A plan to drain a small wetland could help improve habitat for ducks in the northern part of Kandiyohi County.

Water in the 35-acre wetland basin in the Henjum Waterfowl Production Area, located in Arctander Township, has become too high, green and scummy, according to Steve Erickson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fathead minnows have invaded the lake, which has affected vegetation and reduced its appeal to waterfowl.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved a conveyance easement agreement Tuesday between the county, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and landowners Donald and Carmen VanZee, that could make the lake more appealing to migratory waterfowl.

Under the plan, designed by the Ducks Unlimited office in Bismarck, N.D, a drain tile and water control structure will be installed this summer on the small lake southeast of Sunburg.

The water level will be significantly lowered, possibly even drained, for at least one growing cycle to kill the fish and to allow vegetation to regrow.

The process will replicate a drought condition, Erickson said.

The wetland will eventually be restored to normal water levels.

Josh Kavanagh, from Ducks Unlimited, said the primary goal of the program is to enhance shallow lakes to improve habitat for migratory waterfowl. Improving breeding habitat is the secondary goal.

Similar efforts around Minnesota and Iowa have been successful and have generated good reports from duck hunters, said Kavanagh.

Commissioner Dennis Peterson said fish and minnows have "ruined a lot of duck habitats" in Minnesota.

The downstream landowners who would be affected by additional water from the drainage tile crossing through their property have given their approval to the plan.

During the separate family services meeting, also on Tuesday, Family Services Director Jay Kieft told the commissioners that action is being taken to form statewide committees to help develop plans to redesign and simplify the delivery of family service programs.

Legislation is requiring the changes -- for example electronic verification of eligibility for government-sponsored programs will be required for such things as Medical Assistance and food support.

The redesign is supposed to be implemented by 2013.

Kieft said the redesign of programs and integration of new policies will be positive changes. He said efforts are being made to make sure rural counties are represented on the committees that will be establishing details to the plans.

In other action:

- County Truant Officer Becky Anderson gave an update on the county's truancy program, which served 159 children last year through various programs designed to connect them to their school and community. The program serves about a half-dozen area school districts, but most of the students come from Willmar.

- The commissioners thanked Family Services Supervisor Carmen Clementson for her 27 years of service. Clementson, who is retiring at the end of the month, has worked with day care providers, chemical dependency programs and mental health programs during her tenure with the county.

- The commissioners approved a five-year tax abatement, for a maximum of $5,000, for Cronen Cabinet and Flooring, a new business in the city of Kandiyohi.

- The commissioners approved the 2012 budget and customer rates for the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750