MILLIGAN — The water in the pond on Dwaine Kubicek’s farmland in Milligan is low, having been drained recently for improvements to the dam structure. Still, it is the prettiest spot in the area on this warm day in early fall.
Bullfrogs are hopping, cicadas are singing, and a family of ducks is paddling across the pond toward the haven of a small island. Trees hug the shoreline, providing cover for white tailed deer and mule deer. Kubicek has seen plenty of bobcats, rabbits, pheasants, quail, and numerous species of waterfowl at the communal watering hole. In the spring, dozens of endangered whooping cranes will pause their annual migration for a short stay on the property, filling up on last year’s corn in the neighboring fields and bedding down on the water at night.
This robust and diverse ecosystem is made possible by the dam on the north end of the pond. Originally installed by Kubicek’s father in 1964, the dam collects runoff from 1,600 surrounding acres and holds 78 acre-feet (25.4 million gallons) of water in the conservation pool. After 56 years of use, the dam was still functional but had begun to show its age. Parts of the tube were rusted through. Kubicek knew that water seeping through the pipe could wash out the soil underneath and lead to the dam’s eventual failure.
“I didn’t want to just break it open and not catch all that water,” said Kubicek. “I wanted to keep that conservation practice going.”
Kubicek, who now lives in York though owns still owns the farmland in Milligan, partnered with the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District on the repairs, taking advantage of cost-share funds in the Private Dams Program. These funds provide landowners with an opportunity to correct or re-build privately owned dams. The NRD will contribute 75 percent of the project costs up to a maximum cost-share of $50,000. Eligible costs include construction and design services provided by a private engineering firm. The NRD works with the Natural Resources Conservation Service for the design and construction support services provided to this popular program.