District staff gathered near Brownsville, Minn., Aug. 30, to highlight and dedicate the completion of a 3,000-acre environmental project along the Mississippi River in Pool 8.
Completed as a cooperative effort among the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Natural Resources and the public; the Pool 8 project is part of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration - Environmental Management Program.
“The dedication of this phase marks the end of 20 years of restoration efforts in Lower Pool 8,” said Tom Novak, Pool 8 construction project manager.
Novak said the project included building a total of 22 islands, three breakwaters and one offshore rock mound. The islands were constructed with dredged material from various sources within the floodplain and protected with rock structures and vegetation to prevent future erosion. The completion of the islands provides the necessary conditions for the re-establishment of aquatic plant beds and deepwater habitat, to benefit a wide spectrum of fish and wildlife in the region.
Located in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, many of the Pool 8 islands eroded or disappeared during the past 40 years. The loss of these islands increased river flows through the backwaters and increased wind fetch, which created higher turbidity in the backwater areas. These factors led to the loss of valuable aquatic plant beds, said Novak. The loss of the islands also degraded the shallow-water fish and wildlife habitat because the higher turbidity levels produced undesirable conditions for aquatic plant beds. The plant beds provided a valuable food source for fish and migrating birds such as canvasback ducks.
The EMP program includes two primary elements: habitat rehabilitation and enhancement projects and the long term resource monitoring. The program was authorized by Congress in 1986, and it allows the Corps the ability to monitor the river, obtain information needed for effective river management and construct projects that restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat.