Aberdeen airport wetlands to be restored at Willow Dam

Farm Forum

Willow Creek Lake, which is east of Leola, is one of the sources of Aberdeen’s water supply. In an interesting reversal, some of Aberdeen’s water will be relocated to that lake.

As part of a long-term project, the wetlands are being removed from Aberdeen Regional Airport. Some of the water will be sent to the James River or Moccasin Creek. In addition, land at Willow Creek Lake will be used for the replacement of wetlands.

The city of Aberdeen owns land at the lake, which is formed by Willow Dam. The lake is just south of state Highway 10, about 4 miles west of U.S. Highway 281. By vehicle, the lake is about 22 miles from Aberdeen.

The city owns about 1,500 acres of land near Willow Dam, which is managed by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. The city property includes the land that’s covered by water.

Two companies are studying the wetlands at Willow Creek Lake and the airport property.

Measurements used are called functional capacity units, said airport manager Mike Wilson. When high-quality wetlands are found, more functional capacity units are needed to replace them. It’s not yet known how many acres of wetlands will need to be created at Willow Creek Lake to mitigate the loss of airport wetlands.

Aberdeen gets most of its drinking water from the Elm and Maple rivers. At times, the city also gets water from Willow Creek Lake and the top 12 feet of Elm Lake, said Janel Ellingson, superintendent of Aberdeen’s water treatment plant.

As part of the airport’s large-scale project, the two runways are being decoupled to improve safety. The project also includes implementing recommendations from the 2009 update to the Aberdeen Regional Airport Wildlife Hazard Assessment.

Those recommendations include filling in existing wetlands on airport property to reduce wildlife attractants and redesigning the storm water retention ponds to reduce their attractiveness to wildlife.

Aberdeen Regional Airport contains 16 wetlands, which together total about 56 acres. The airport totals more than 1,000 acres.

At a public meeting in March in Aberdeen, engineers presented four options for storm water control – work that does not involve Willow Creek Lake.

Wilson said the options presented at the meeting are preliminary. The airport hoped to start designing the storm water system this year. But costs came in much higher than anticipated, Wilson said.

The costs depend greatly on how much force main – which is a pipe – is required, he said.

When the project is done, there will be two detention ponds on airport property.

The Federal Aviation Administration recommends that detention and retention ponds should be drained dry within 48 hours. Following that advisory, sending water to the James River would require a force main – to pump water – at least 30 inches wide. The