The Harpers Slough area is part of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program. The area is a 3,510 acre backwater located primarily on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River in Pool 9, about 3 miles upstream of Lock and Dam 9. The site is in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
The area is a significant fish nursery area and is used heavily by tundra swans, Canada geese, puddle and diving ducks, black terns, nesting eagles, bitterns, and cormorants. Unfortunately, many of the islands in the area have been eroded or lost because of wave action and ice movement. The loss of islands allows more turbulence in the backwater area, resulting in less productive habitat for fish and wildlife.
The project protects five existing islands and constructs seven additional islands using material from the backwater and main channel. The project will slow the loss of existing islands, reduce the flow of sediment-laden water into the backwaters, reduce turbidity that harms fish and wildlife, and increase the diversity of land and shoreline habitat.
A single construction contract was awarded in September 2014 and the remaining options exercised in October 2014 for a total construction cost of $11.9 million. The contractor began constructing islands in spring 2015. The work was completed in August 2017. The project was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in August 2018 to operate and maintain. Island tree plantings was initiated in 2018 and will be completed in 2019. A project dedication is planned for fall 2019.
The Harpers Slough Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project was planned and designed under the authority of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program. This program was authorized by Section 1103 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 and reauthorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 1999.
The project is being constructed as part of a cooperative effort of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the USFWS, the Iowa and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, and local interests.
Project design and construction costs were 100 percent federal because the project is located on lands managed as a national wildlife refuge. Operation and maintenance costs are 100 percent federal and a responsibility of the USFWS.
Estimated total project cost $14,000,000
Funds allocated through fiscal year 2019 $14,000,000