USACE, partners build Mississippi River islands to protect aquatic habitat
By Patrick Moes
St. Paul District
A series of recently restored islands nestled along the Mississippi River near Lansing, Iowa, were merely a design a few years ago.
The construction is a part of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program, also known as the Environmental Management Program. The program, according to Tom Novak, project management, is a multi-agency, multi-district program that is restoring aquatic habit along the river.
"Habitat is being lost," said Novak. "It's a huge river, it's a huge amount of habitat and a lot of it has been lost over the past 80 years and it will continue to be lost unless we do something."
Jeff Janvrin, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources biologist, said the Capoli Slough project was just an idea that started in the 1980s. The project, according to Janvrin, is restoring islands that were in the river prior to the creation of the locks and dams in the 1930s. The navigation construction created wind and waves that deteriorated the islands to a point where they were no longer viable habitat for wildlife.
As the partners continue restoring these projects, they are already seeing new wildlife and recreation aspects. Novak said, the project's value can be found in the outdoor opportunities for fishing and hunting, as well as the economic benefits local communities receive from the increased visitors. "We have an international flyway of wildlife, turtles and all kinds of fish available for people to see," said Novak. "To have nature there and be protected is a good thing."
The wildlife protection being built today is accomplished because the federal, state and local partners agreed to work together toward a common goal to protect the resources in the region. "Partnerships are great," said Novak. "Everyone brings a little bit to the table, and it really makes for a better project."
Those partners include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' St. Paul, Rock Island and St. Louis districts; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the U.S. Geological Survey; the natural resource departments from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri; and the public. Janvrin said, the restoration would not have occurred without the support of the public. "This is a public program," he said. "As such, you have to meet the expectations; you have to basically involve the public in the design, the building and enjoyment of these projects."