Malfunctioning water-control structure may delay flooding at Big Lake Wildlife Management Area

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MANILLA — An electrical problem at a water-control structure at Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge has reduced the efficiency of infrastructure designed to flood portions of Big Lake Wildlife Management Area for waterfowl season.

The malfunctioning water-control structure normally would allow water to flow around the refuge and down a canal labeled “Ditch 28,” which supplies water for much of the WMA where waterfowl hunting is allowed. While the area can flood to provide waterfowl habitat without this structure in operation, it is much more dependent on local rainfall to do so.

According to James Foster, AGFC biologist in northeast Arkansas, if the Missouri Bootheel receives about 3 more inches of rainfall in the near future, the area may be flooded by the opening of duck season on Nov. 23.

“There will still be water in the hunting areas by opening day of duck season without that amount of rain, but it may not be at 100 percent flooded without it,” Foster said.

The structure is on the Federal Refuge and is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. AGFC staff has been in communication with the managers of the structure and the repair has been placed as a top priority for the Corps.

“Electrical companies already have begun the permit process with the Corps,” Foster said. “But we want to let hunters know about the situation as we head into duck season so they are aware of possible changes from what they typically see on opening morning at Big Lake WMA.”

Big Lake WMA is a 12,320-acre area owned by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which borders Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service . The area is very popular with duck hunters due to its location next to the federal refuge area and its distinction as one of the few remaining large tracts of bottomland hardwood forests in northeast Arkansas.

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