Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge in Holt County has received a federal grant to complete a large-scale habitat improvement project.

Ducks Unlimited successfully secured funding through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act for the proposal.

The project will cover costs for three new water wells on the refuge, make upgrades to the water pump system and build a new levee across the north end of Eagle Pool.

The project titled “Missouri River Valley Wetlands” will use $1 million in federal NAWCA funds and almost $2.4 million in matching money from non-federal funds. The matching funds came from organizations such as the Waterfowlers of Fame in Mound City and donations from waterfowl hunters.

The goal of the project is to establish an improved migration corridor for waterfowl along the Missouri River.

The project at the refuge is part of a large scale effort spearheaded by Ducks Unlimited that includes enhancements to other wetland areas located from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Joseph, Missouri.

Overall, the Missouri River Wetlands NAWCA project will acquire 1,575 acres of habitat, restore 20 acres and enhance 3,023 acres of waterfowl habitat.

Lindsey Landowski, refuge manager, said the plans for the pumps and wells have already been drafted by Ducks Unlimited and submitted to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for review and approval. Construction is anticipated to start next summer.

Refuge staff helped to determine the priorities of the aging water control structures. The current pump on the northeast side of the refuge was installed in 1957.

Landowski said that controlling water levels is critical to providing necessary habitat for ducks and geese. She said water levels determine which plant species can grow and serve as food for wildlife on the refuge.

The refuge provides habitat for around 310 bird species, 37 species of mammals and over 30 species of reptiles and amphibians. There are hundreds of thousands of ducks that migrate through the county each year and there are over 1 million snow geese that visit a year.

The wetland units were designed to sustain wildlife that benefit hunters, birders and local communities. The units serve as resting spots for birds and they grow plants that are not commonly found because of the intensive land management and water control infrastructure.

Landowski said the upgrades to the refuge will aid all species that utilize the area.

Margaret Slayton can be reached

at margaret.slayton@newspressnow.com.