The habitat stamp program funded the recently completed Woodruff Dam repair during the summer as one public land and water project in the state, and now discussions are in play for more projects in Hughes and Stanley counties.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department requires a habitat stamp as part of a hunting, fishing or furbearer license application. The July 2020 program charges a $10 fee to residents and a $25 fee to non-residents.

Habitat stamps from hunting and furbearer license sales fund wildlife habitat developments and public access improvements on public lands. The projects include creating nesting and brood-rearing cover, tree and shrub plantings, food plots and hunting access trails. Funding can also get public hunting access to private lands.

Habitat stamps from fishing license sales fund aquatic habitat projects on public waters and projects that create or enhance public access to those waters. The program also provides funding for dam maintenance — including repairs and replacements for aging structures — and adding or improving boat docks, roads and vault toilets.

But the program’s funding doesn’t permit purchasing properties.

Woodruff Dam

The Woodruff Dam, 34 miles northeast of Pierre near Harrold, is part of the Woodruff State Game area managed by Game, Fish and Parks.

Game, Fish and Parks senior biologist for aquatic habitat and access Jason Jungwirth said the Woodruff Dam and spillway work came about from damage during the 2019 floods. The dam was a Works Progress Administration dam built initially in the 1930s. Water breached the dam in 1997.

Game, Fish and Parks cleaned the area in 1999 and added the current weir structure in 2010. A weir is a low-lying barrier similar to a dam but only slows down or manipulates the water flow. A weir’s purpose is to alter a river’s or creek’s flow and measure flow rates.

“The flooding event in 2019 had such high flows that it displaced a bunch of the riprap material below the spillway area,” Jungwirth said. “This project was to bring the riprap back to the way it was built. It was also to armor the downstream outside bend just below the spillway, which had significant erosion take place. This added armoring will further protect the structure during future events. Then there was some maintenance work that was done on the lake side of the structure.”

More local projects

Game, Fish and Parks habitat program administrator Paul Coughlin said that the potential list for habitat stamp projects is increasing.

“Our folks are always developing a list for what these monies can go to,” he said. “We are doing a lot of planning.”

One item on that list could concern Downs Marina in Pierre, but Jungwirth said there isn’t anything to show since the project was a joint effort between Game, Fish and Parks and the City of Pierre. He said they hired a firm to give them ideas on what could improve fishing access as well as park amenities in the area.

“The design options have been done,” Jungwirth said. “It is now in further discussion and planning stages. No timelines are in the works for any construction, as a lot of further discussions need to take place.”

According to its website, Downs Marina, next to Griffin Park in Pierre, has about 90 boat slips, four launching ramps, camping spots nearby and a fish cleaning station. The fish cleaning station is winterized in the fall but opens when weather permits.

Jungwirth also noted other discussed ideas for local habitat stamp projects.

The Fort George and South Dakota Highway 34 access area about 20 miles downriver from Fort Pierre is a large project in the works, looking to improve fishing in the area. Game, Fish and Parks is already planning the project and hopes to begin some work this summer, pending plans and clearance approvals.

The department also began plans to develop an area along the causeway at Farm Island to improve access for winter ice angling and summer canoe and kayak use.

Game, Fish and Parks wants to consider shore fishing improvement opportunities in the DeGrey access area about 23 miles downriver from Pierre as well.

Jungwirth said that some improvement could be possible at the Medicine Knoll Dam, a few miles southwest of Blunt.

“Plans are being developed to look at ways to improve the new dam that was constructed a number of years ago,” he said. “The drainage is not keeping the dam full, so looking at the possibility of developing a water source/well to use to keep the dam full as well as watering for rotational grazing of the GPA.”

One more project on the way is relatively close to Pierre and Fort Pierre sports enthusiasts.

“This next project is outside of the county area, but everybody in the area knows of the ponds on the Fort Pierre National Grasslands,” Jungwirth said in an email. “We have partnered with the FPNG to rebuild Lower Booth Dam that is located in Jones County, which is down in the southwest corner of the grasslands. The plan and clearances are being finished up, with construction being planned for this summer.”

Del Bartels | 605-224-7301

Reporter Del Bartels, a born and raised South Dakotan and a graduate from Black Hills State University, was the editor of a weekly newspaper for 17 years.

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