SARATOGA — Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists worked with the Army Corps of Engineers and Southwest Arkansas Water District to coordinate a drawdown on Millwood Lake earlier this summer to promote wildlife habitat through aerial seeding of millet along the lake’s abundant mudflats.
The Corps dropped the lake level 2 feet on July 19 to allow for infrastructure repairs to the spillway and other infrastructure on the lake. This drawdown also is part of an annual partnership to improve habitat for fish in the lake as well as waterfowl habitat along its shoreline.
The drawdown dries and compacts the soil of the shallow reservoir, reducing silt load and enabling plants to grow. Annual smartweeds and native millets will sprout on the mudflats from seeds remaining from previous years, which will offer food for waterfowl and nutrients for the lake’s food chain as vegetation decomposes. But biologists go much further than simply drawing down the water.
“We aerially dropped about 7,500 pounds of Japanese millet seed on those exposed mudflats to give the system a boost,” said AGFC Regional Biologist Supervisor Griffin Park. “Roughly 500 acres of mudflats were seeded to add more wetland habitat when the ducks arrive this winter.”
Park says seeding most of the mudflats on the lake would be nearly impossible to do by tractor or land, but aerially seeding has proven to be effective and creates less disturbance to the aquatic habitat.
Park says the water level will be held 2 feet low Sept. 1 so the millet can sprout and grow. Then the Corps will raise the lake in stages to encourage growth of the smartweeds and millet.
“Just like with rice farming, you want to put some water on it to encourage growth and get it to top out right,” Park said. “It should be back to conservation pool by the end of October, and by then it should be tall enough that the heads will be above the water line and be available for the ducks.”
The partnership to produce this boost to waterfowl habitat has been in place for about 10 years, and during that time, biologists have been able to provide the millet in all but two of those years.
“It’s just a great way we can add some habitat for hunters and ducks in Southwest Arkansas on public land,” Park said. “And it’s very popular with our hunters. I get weekly texts and emails asking how the millet is doing each year by people wanting to get out when the ducks arrive.”