GEORGETOWN — People traveling along Mallard Pond Road in Henry Gray Hurricane Lake Wildlife Management Area will soon notice some changes to their route to help eliminate drainage issues responsible for declining forest health on the WMA. AGFC contractors and staff are gearing up to open many plugged drains along the road this year, replacing them with bridges and low-water crossings.
Biologists have identified seven primary drain plugs and structures along the road impeding the flow of water that will be removed and an eighth location that will be remedied if budget and construction time allow.
“The road is essentially acting as a levee, and these plugs were placed over the years to hold water back and increase reliable flooding, but we need to manage this area differently if we are going to benefit the forest and the waterfowl that use it in the long run,” Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator, said. “We have to let water rise and fall in the system if we’re going to save it, and these plugs need to go.”
The project is part of the ongoing battle the AGFC is fighting to maintain the health of seasonally flooded bottomland hardwood forests known as greentree reservoirs on public land in Arkansas. These artificially flooded areas have provided habitat for mallards and other waterfowl for decades, and play a large role in Arkansas’s reputation as the duck-hunting capital of the world. However, changes in the amount of water coming through the system and flooding when the trees are not dormant have taken their toll on many of the species that once provided food and shelter for wintering ducks. Willow oaks, Nuttall oaks and other desirable red oak species have been replaced by overcup oaks and other less beneficial trees, and in some cases, even