Eastern Dakotas Survey Completed

Written by Terry Liddick
Thursday, May 26, 2011

Terry LiddickThe Eastern Dakota’s survey area is complete and it looked nothing less than spectacular. It is probably wetter than it has ever been and wetlands throughout the Dakota’s were at least 100% full. The duck numbers were just as spectacular! After nearly 7,000 miles of flying across the eastern Dakota’s, we observed excellent conditions throughout the survey area. With the exception of the Red River Valley, which is pretty well drained and tiled (and yet still had puddled water in remnant wetlands), conditions were judged to be mostly excellent. Wetland basins were full to over-full throughout the survey area. The wet conditions should certainly persist well through the brooding season and more rain is coming. It doesn’t get any better for the ducks!

We finished the survey this morning flying the western half of the northern-most 2 lines northwest of Devils Lake, ND, in the Minot area. Lake Sakakawea and Devils Lake are at record levels and the James, Missouri, Souris and all the other rivers are still way out of their banks. They aren’t receding anytime soon, either. A newly constructed levee around the Devils Lake airport is preventing it from being flooded as the lake is a foot higher than the airfield elevation. More rain is forecast for the next 2 days and as was the theme throughout the survey, I had to make a mad dash out of Devils Lake to beat that system or most likely spend 2 days waiting for it to pass.

Production out of the eastern Dakotas should be excellent again this year. It was a great sight to see all of the wetlands full and nesting cover good across most of the area. Thanks to Dave Fronczak for a tremendous job as my observer. Dave has flown as observer in several crew areas over the past 8 years, and was impressed with the number of waterfowl. Now I am heading back to my home base in Phoenix, AZ ,and I’m sure the landscape there will be markedly different than what we just observed in the Dakotas! It will probably be substantially warmer as well. With that said, it will be great knowing that production up north should be outstanding! Looking forward to a great fall flight and see you next year!

The Red River in the eastern part of the survey area, stratum 47.

The Red River in the eastern part of the survey area, stratum 47. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

Devil's Lake in North Dakota is now 1 foot above the airfield elevation. Record high level now requires a levee to protect the airport and more rain is forecast!

Devil's Lake in North Dakota is now 1 foot above the airfield elevation. Record high level now requires a levee to protect the airport and more rain is forecast! Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

Working on the causeway across Devil's Lake to keep it above the lake water level.

Working on the causeway across Devil's Lake to keep it above the lake water level. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

Devil's Lake from above.

Devil's Lake from above. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

As you can see, Lake Sakakawea is also at record high levels.

As you can see, Lake Sakakawea is also at record high levels. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

Lake Sakakawea continues to rise and the Corps of Engineers is set to increase water releases which will cause more downstream flooding along the Missouri River.

Lake Sakakawea continues to rise and the Corps of Engineers is set to increase water releases which will cause more downstream flooding along the Missouri River. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

High and dry for now on an island in Lake Sakakawea.

High and dry for now on an island in Lake Sakakawea. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

Record water levels throughout the Dakota's this year, in all of the lakes, rivers and wetlands.

Record water levels throughout the Dakota's this year, in all of the lakes, rivers and wetlands. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

Oil development continues at a record pace in western North Dakota. New wells in the foreground and a new drilling right on the shore of Lake Sakakawea in the aft.

Oil development continues at a record pace in western North Dakota. New wells in the foreground and a new drilling right on the shore of Lake Sakakawea in the aft. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS