Lake Odessa Drawdown Underway
The water level draw down at the Lake Odessa Complex, in Louisa County, is currently underway in an effort to expose mudflats that will rapidly vegetate with seed-producing moist-soil plants that will be re-flooded this fall providing excellent food and cover for migratory birds, primarily waterfowl.
Joint water level management of the complex, comprised of the 4,137-acre Odessa Wildlife Management Area managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the 2,600-acre Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, dates back to the 1950s and is aimed at providing high quality habitat for migratory birds.
Wetland and moist-soil plants established during the draw down help consolidate bottom sediments and when re-flooded, help to improve water clarity that would otherwise be poor due to re-suspension of sediment by wind, waves, and bottom-feeding fish like common carp.
This low water period benefits other important plants found throughout the complex such as Buttonbush, a wetland shrub that is heavily used by waterfowl.
This cycle also helps maintain the diversity of the floodplain forest in the Odessa Complex by allowing mast-producing species such as Oak, Hickory, and Pecan to survive and regenerate. Persistent high water levels favor the establishment of less desirable species such as Silver Maple, Cottonwood, and Willow that are of far less value to wildlife.
Water levels in the Odessa Complex are greatly influenced by the Mississippi River and annual plans for water level draw downs are often prevented or delayed by high river levels. Lowering water levels in the complex is especially critical following the major floods and high water events during recent years that have resulted in the loss of desirable trees and wetland plants throughout the complex.