Mar 26, 2012 5:49 AM by AP
MONROE, La. (AP) - For the third month in a row, flooding has foiled plans to plant 10,000 hardwood trees along streams to restore part of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge.
But the flooding is what was intended in the nation's largest flood plain restoration project, Chris Rice of The Nature Conservancy told The News-Star.
"It's working just as it should," Rice said. "It is wonderful to see floodwater from the Ouachita River fill up the 20,000 acre Mollicy tract. Hopefully the water will recede a few weeks before the new dates in May."
The project was designed to let the Ouachita River flow unrestricted into the area. But it makes for precarious scheduling of work within the unit. Mollicy has been flooded since December.
Rice originally scheduled the planting in January and February, but pushed those dates back to Saturday and Sunday when rains flooded the unit.
March rains have kept the site flooded, so the new dates are set for May 5 and May 12.
Mollicy, in the northwestern corner of Morehouse Parish, was cleared for farmland and surrounded by a 30-foot levee in the 1960s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired the land in the early 1990s.
Four strategic cuts were made in the levee to let streams there reconnect with the river.
About 13,000 acres of the 20,000-acre site have been replanted with original, indigenous hardwoods like cypress, water tupelo, overcup oaks, willow oaks, Nuttall oaks, cherrybark oaks, green ash and mayhaws.
"We're excited about the level of enthusiasm shown for the project," Rice said. "Now we'll just have to hope for some dry weather so we can get this work done."