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Work continues on Crab Orchard Lake

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 6:03 PM CDT
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CARTERVILLE, Ill. (KFVS) -Work is continuing on the multi-million-dollar spillway project at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.

Crews lowered the lake 4 feet to work on the dam and improve access for the public back in July.

Crab Orchard Lake hasn’t been this low since back in the 1980s.

We caught up with the refuge’s assistant manager to get an update on all the work being done out there.

“So, the demolition is more than 50 percent complete,” said Donovan Henry, assistant manager of the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge.

Henry was talking about work to replace the concrete on the 80 year old dam.

He said they’re taking advantage of these low water levels to make other needed repairs around the lake.

“We have crews right now that are working on our boat ramps around the lake. We also have plans to expand the prairie creek boat ramp and we hope to do some work on the marina ramp as well,” said Henry.

Henry said they’re also are making changes to attract more wildlife.

“So we have a lot of native vegetation that came up in there and also crab orchard waterfowl association seeded Japanese millet for waterfowl for when the water does return to a more normal level,” said Henry.

The refuge is also noticing more and more birds on the property this year.

“We’ve seen a lot more wading birds this year than any other year,” said Kyra Neal, park ranger.

Neal said bird watchers will have a lot to enjoy this fall.

“Definitely, get out there. Get your binoculars see what you can see, we’ve seen some pretty rare specifies out here. So there’s lots of opportunities to see some cool stuff this year,” said Neal.

You won’t see as many boats on the lake, or fishermen on the shore and that’s having an impact on business at the Crappie Pro Shop in Carterville.

“But we are hoping that there is plenty of other ponds and that kind of stuff that anglers can still get out and fish all across southern Illinois, so we’re hoping to make it through this fall and winter and then we’ll be back ready to go when the lake’s ready this spring,” said Blake Jackson, store owner.

Jackson said the benefits of all this work will be well worth the wait.

“Next spring when that water level is back normal pull it’s going to be a fantastic fishery again,” said Jackson.

Just a reminder that the lake is currently open and water levels are expected to return to normal in the spring with rainfall and drainage.

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