A vast, ground-water-supported sedge fen in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA was ditched in the early 1900s in a failed attempt to promote agriculture. Dikes were later constructed to impound seasonal sheet surface flows for waterfowl management. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which now manages the wetland as part of Seney National Wildlife Refuge, sought to redirect water flows from impounded C-3 Pool to reduce erosion in downstream Walsh Ditch, reduce ground-water losses into the ditch, and restore sheet flows of surface water to the peatland. A water budget was developed for C-3 Pool, which serves as the central receiving and distribution body for water in the affected wetland. Surface-water inflows and outflows were measured in associated ditches and natural creeks, ground-water flows were estimated using a network of wells and piezometers, and precipitation and evaporation/evapotranspiration components were estimated using local meteorological data. Water budgets for the 1999 springtime peak flow period and the 1999 water year were used to estimate required releases of water from C-3 Pool via outlets other than Walsh Ditch and to guide other restoration activities. Refuge managers subsequently used these results to guide restoration efforts, including construction of earthen dams in Walsh Ditch upslope from the pool to stop surface flow, installation of new water-control structures to redirect surface water to sheet flow and natural creek channels, planning seasonal releases from C-3 Pool to avoid erosion in natural channels, stopping flow in downslope Walsh Ditch to reduce erosion, and using constructed earthen dams and natural beaver dams to flood the ditch channel below C-3 Pool. Interactions between ground water and surface water are critical for maintaining ecosystem processes in many wetlands, and management actions directed at restoring either ground- or surface-water flow patterns often affect both of these components of the water budget. This approach could thus prove useful in guiding restoration efforts in many hydrologically altered and managed wetlands worldwide.
Additional publication details
A water-budget approach to restoring a sedge fen affected by diking and ditching