US Army Corps of Engineers
Rock Island District Website

Sustainable Rivers Program established at Des Moines River Reservoirs

Rock Island District
Published June 17, 2020
On the upstream end of Lake Red Rock where the Des Moines River flows into the reservoir, a web of small channels, known as a delta, provides prime feeding habitat for migrating shorebirds in late summer when water levels decrease.

On the upstream end of Lake Red Rock where the Des Moines River flows into the reservoir, a web of small channels, known as a delta, provides prime feeding habitat for migrating shorebirds in late summer when water levels decrease.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District and The Nature Conservancy have partnered to establish a Sustainable Rivers Program at Saylorville Lake and Lake Red Rock on the Des Moines River. The emphasis of the program is to benefit aquatic dependent species while continuing to provide the same level of flood risk management to river communities.

As part of the program, minimal water level adjustments will be made during non-flood periods to increase suitable habitat for migrating birds at the reservoirs. A narrow range of water levels, known as conservation bands, will be used to achieve this goal.  

In early summer, water levels will be raised to the top of the conservation band, 837 feet at Saylorville Lake and 743 feet at Lake Red Rock, to submerge shoreline areas. In mid-summer, the reservoirs will be incrementally lowered to the bottom end of the conservation band, 836 feet at Saylorville Lake and 741.5 feet at Lake Red Rock, to expose mudflats which is preferred habitat for migrating shorebirds.   The areas become vegetated and become ideal habitat conditions for migrating waterfowl later in the year.   

“The Sustainable Rivers Program at Saylorville Lake and Lake Red Rock will implement measures to improve the conditions for aquatic dependent species of the Des Moines River Basin,” said Rock Island District Natural Resource Specialist, Hugh Howe. “This effort is to improve habitat for migrating birds but other benefits of the program could include habitat improvement for fish, mussels, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals as well as water quality improvements.”

Recently revised water control plans for Saylorville Lake and Lake Red Rock include the addition of conservation bands to increase environmental benefits when conditions allow however, flood risk management remains the top priority at both of the reservoirs.

“Modifying operations to include environmental needs within authorized project purposes such as flood risk management and recreation is an effective way to restore, protect and sustain river habitats,” said Howe.

For more information about the Des Moines River Sustainable Rivers Program visit: https://www.iwr.usace.army.mil/sustainablerivers/sites/desmoines/.


Release no. 20-051