Efforts are underway to manipulate water levels within the Felsenthal pool to 64 MSL, dropping it one foot lower than the normal level of 65 MSL.
Management practices by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, such as the use of drawdowns in wetland habitats, promote the germination of native plants and provides great benefits to migrating and resident shorebirds and waterfowl.
The drawdown, conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is expected to expose up to 4,000 acres of mudflats and scrub/shrub habitat within the Felsenthal NWR boundary creating variably shallow conditions in some frequented areas. Users should use caution when traversing the waterways and stay vigilant as water levels may fluctuate.
The Corps of Engineers has reserved all rights on flood control and navigation for Felsenthal Pool as part of the Ouachita River water is always moving through the system.
“The Refuge has only seen one recorded drawdown in its history, back in 1995,” said Michael Stroeh, South Arkansas Refuge Complex Manager. “While it was successful in plant growth and waterfowl numbers the following November, it’s been 22 years since we’ve seen water this low and everyone should be mindful of that.”
In October of 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft proposal emphasizing Felsenthal NWR management practices for the next 15 years including the artificial flooding of the green tree reservoir located within the Refuge. Deliberation of the finalized plan lasted nearly 8 months and included an extended 67 day public comment period. Based on the feedback received during the review period and an analysis of the draft, the Service selected a combination of Alternative B and C, which is the preferred alternative in the final HMP. The plan states that every three years, the pool will be lowered until 64’MSL level is reached.
Refuge users can expect varied water levels and are encouraged to check river gauge readings for timely updates on-line.