09 November 2010

Final Planning Underway for Arbor Lake Improvement Project

Final plans are being prepared for a project to continue the conservation and enhancement of saline wetlands at Arbor Lake WMA, north of Lincoln.

Preliminary design for the Arbor Lake project.

In an ongoing process, plans for this place have been revised to ensure that the place is a haven for the endangered Salt Creek Tiger Beetle, birds, and other denizens of saline wetlands along north 27th Street.

There were about 30 people at an open house meeting on October 19, said Tom Malmstrom, coordinator for the Saline Wetlands Conservation Partnership. Poster boards of the proposed design were available for review, and plan consultants were present to listen to comments and answer questions. Soil, vegetation and hydrology of the site was also presented.

"This restoration project will enhance the saline wetland habitat," at Arbor Lake WMA, said Malmstrom. "It is a Landscape Objective of the Implementation Plan for the Conservation of Nebraska's Eastern Saline Wetlands (issued in 2003) to restore and protect saline wetlands. The Partnership strives to implement the goals and objectives of the plan and acts responsibly when opportunities are available to accomplish this."

The Partnership has acquired various land tracts in recent years, and after buying the nearby Frank Shoemaker Marsh in 2003, a plan was developed and changes were made to the area to "enhance" the habitat for tiger beetles and birds.

Measures indicated by the nearly final design plan, include:

  • berm removal or replacement, and modifications in water outlet structures
  • removal of sediment and excavation to lower soil levels to improve wetland conditions
  • placement of structures to limit the erosional downcutting of water channels
  • reshaping of the banks of the intermittent stream channels which conduct water into Little Salt Creek
  • providing access for small vehicles as needed for site management, as well as for people walking around the site
  • demolition and removal of the current walkway and site overlook, which will be replaced by benches where visitors can sit and observe the wetland area

Once a final design is completed in December or January, the $700,000 project will get underway. Funding is being provided by a Federal Section 319 grant, and a Nebraska Environmental Trust grant.

The 63 acre Arbor Lake site was purchased for $60,300 in November 1987, to mitigate for saline wetlands destroyed by the construction of Capitol Parkway West project by the City of Lincoln. Additional acres have been added on the southern portion of the area in recent years, so the area now encompasses 132 acres.

Arbor Lake has long been a known haven for birds, with some of the first notes from 1917, as given in the notes by Ralph Dawson, which continued through 1923. There have been many additional notes from the North 27th Street area in the modern era. After 1985, and in subsequent years during the early 1990s, observations indicate that at least 81 species have been seen at Arbor Lake WMA. There is an overall greater diversity when adjacent places such as the Frank Shoemaker Marsh are also considered.