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Conestoga Rehabilitated

I have blogged about the Aquatic Habitat Project coming to completion at Conestoga Reservoir.  If you can take a drive by there to see it, you really need to.  However, I want to blog about it again. . . . First of all, because we have some more drone footage from The Flatwater Group who were contracted as engineers on the project:

Another thing I want to mention is that the Conestoga rehabilitation project has been the largest Aquatic Habitat Rehabilitation project we have completed in the twenty years of the Aquatic Habitat Program.  It seemed like it took forever to complete the project; let me give you some ideas why. . . .

Yes, the Aquatic Habitat Program is the responsibility of a state agency, the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission.  That does NOT mean that we are exempt from a long list of procedures and permits.  This timeline will give you an idea of some of that:

ConestogaImplementationSteps

Throw in a few rainfall events that put more water back in the reservoir, and yes, it took a while to get this project finished.

Of course a rotenone renovation was also part of the process, and that was completed last fall.  As best as we could, the watershed above the reservoir was scoured for the presence of undesirable species of fish.  That included over one hundred private ponds in the watershed.

ConestogaWatershedPonds

“Mother nature” and bucket biologists have a way of hijacking our best plans, but I am confident that we have done our best to see to it that undesirable species like common carp, white perch, and gizzard shad are NOT going to be present in Conestoga.

The drone video gives you some idea of the deepening that was done at Conestoga, the tons of sediment that were hauled out of the reservoir basin–600,000 cubic yards worth!  Sediment/nutrient dikes and retention ponds immediately above the reservoir were incorporated into the project.  I am not going to tell you that there will be no sedimentation in the future because that is a natural process that occurs on all waterbodies.  I will tell you that features have been included that will reduce sedimentation and make it easier to deal with that sediment in the future.

As much as possible, brush and trees were left in the reservoir basin.  Some had to be moved or eliminated, but even then, those were made into fish attractors.  There will be some “fish cribs” in there as big as a small house:

ConestogaCrib

Angler access was also a huge part of the Conestoga project and that includes a brand new boat ramp completely protected by a breakwater.  Shoreline anglers, never fear, watch the drone video and you will see that there have been a ton of shoreline access improvements installed.

Largemouth bass and bluegill have already been stocked into Conestoga.  More fish stockings will be coming in 2019.

The last time I drove out there, the water level was about six feet below full pool.  I have heard that water levels may be held down for a period as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finishes some work on instruments and monitoring equipment.

Let me finish with one more tidbit for those of you interested in the bottom line.  Yes, projects like this are expensive.  In fact they are so expensive that we have to plan budgets years in advance in order to pull off a project of this size.  But also notice that Aquatic Habitat funds provided by Nebraska anglers are only part of the funding.  We are able to leverage those funds with many others that are available to get even more done!

It has been a long, winding road, it has taken some time, but great fishing is on the way at Conestoga, soon!  Just give the fish some time to grow!

(Thanks Mark and Jeff, for letting me steal some photos and charts!)

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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