Levee wildlife

The wildlife area in Elwood, Kansas, will be closing soon as the Corps of Engineers plans to raise the local levee to prevent flooding in the area. The project could take approximately two years to complete.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism have announced that the Elwood Bottoms Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Site will be closing in the spring to work on levee repairs and improvements in the area.

The project, which is estimated to take two years, aims to protect Elwood and Wathena, Kansas, and Rosecrans Memorial Airport and Air National Guard base from future flooding by raising the levee by 3.5 feet.

According to Corps officials, an evaluation of the area conducted in 1999 created a plan that would potentially protect the area from flooding.

“At the request of local levee districts, a review of the St. Joe levees was initiated in 1999 to evaluate the existing level of flood damage reduction and determine alternatives for possible improvement,” Corps officials said in a press release.”The recommended plan calls for raising approximately 14 miles of Unit R471-460 up to 3.5 feet above the existing elevation, as well as adding earthen berms on the landward side of the levee.”

Part of the 14 miles being closed for the project includes the Elwood Bottoms, which is used by area fishers and hunters. Kirk Thompson with the Kansas Wildlife Department said flooding in the area has affected the wildlife significantly.

“Most of the wildlife or most all the wildlife were probably displaced,having to move out into drier and drier ground,” Thompson said. “At least the terrestrial ones were.”

The project plans to help improve the wildlife area by removing about 400,000 cubic yards near Highway 36.

“The earthen material will be removed in a manner that will enhance and expand existing wetlands, remove accumulated sediment from the floodplain — improving floodplain connectivity — and eradicate areas of invasive reed canary grass,” the Corps said. “While construction will temporarily impact fish and wildlife resources and public use, habitat conditions should improve over the long term and meet mitigation project goals of offsetting impacts of the BSN.”

Both the Corps and the Kansas Wildlife Department are encouraging citizens to avoid the area when construction begins in the spring. Hunters close to the project especially should be aware of shooting down range.

Jessika Eidson can be reached at jessika.eidson@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NPNowEidson.