The floating wetland is near the Fellows Lake marina, so visitors can see it and learn about water quality. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

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Springfield’s main drinking water supply was made a little cleaner with the debut of a 64-square foot floating wetland into Fellows Lake on July 1.

City Utilities, the Missouri Department of Conservation and other partners planted and launched a man-made floating wetland into a cove on the north shore of the lake, which serves as the main source of drinking water for Springfield.

Missouri Department of Conservation's Darby Herbst with a section of the floating wetland at Fellows Lake. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

While the project is not the first of its kind in and around Springfield waters, the wetland at Fellows Lake is unique. The base is made of an aluminum structure filled with recycled glass aggregate, which is cheaper, more durable and more environmentally sustainable than floating wetlands made of plastic components.

Prior to launching the wetland into a cove east of the Fellows Lake Marina, located at 4200 E. Farm Road 66, a team of staffers from CU, MDC and partner agencies planted native species of plants in the glass aggregate, including pickerel weed, arrowhead, southern blue flag iris, bulrush, lizard’s tail and swamp milkweed.

The structure is divided into three sections, featuring a total of 64-square feet of planting area supported by two pontoon floats and the buoyancy of the glass aggregate. Anchored in the cove, the wetland visible from the shoreline and a nearby trail. The native species, and the benefits they bring, could multiply and spread around the lake.

Wetland benefits wildlife, water quality

This floating wetland is made up of an aluminum structure filled with recycled glass aggregate. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

The wetland will provide a habitat to birds, bugs and other wildlife, and filter sediment and contaminants from stormwater. It can also filter the nutrients that feed algae from Fellows Lake, making for cleaner water for animals and people. Fellows Lake is too large a body of water to treat with an algaecide, according to City Utilities biology lab analyst Will Sappington.

Will Sappington, a biology lab analyst with CU, helps the MO Department of Conservation with plants for the floating wetland at Fellows Lake. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

“If we can rob enough nutrients so that we can control the algae population a little better, we make Fellows Lake an even more popular, attractive source for us to pull from,” Sappington said.

Frank Nelson, wetlands systems manager with MDC, said floating wetlands have been successful at reducing algae at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery in Branson.

“Previously, we put one island in another pond out in Bois D’Arc last year, as well,” Nelson said. “That pond was still a little green, so we adjusted and put another island in this year. It’s one of those where you kind of have to watch and learn, and then you can build up and scale as you’re monitoring.”

Frank Nelson of the Missouri Department of Conservation applies technology and research to enhance the area's understanding of wetland management and restoration. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

The project is also part of a larger effort to restore Missouri’s wetlands, which have been lost to draining, filling, development and other factors. Floating wetlands can also be found at Sequiota Park and Doling Park, and additional wetlands are planned for several sites in and around Springfield, including McDaniel Lake.

In the future, scientists with the Missouri Department of Conservation hope to expand the efforts to private ponds and publicly-owned lakes.

“This is just the first step,” Kara Tvedt, fisheries biologist with MDC, said in a press release. “We’d eventually like to provide instructions and technical advice to landowners who want to do this on their ponds and small lakes, too.”

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Hauxeda. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee