After years of degradation, Mississippi River islands near Lansing, Iowa, are receiving much needed attention.
The Harper’s Slough Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project will protect five existing islands and construct an additional seven islands using material from the backwater and main channel. The project also includes protecting or restoring 98 acres of island habitat and creating more than 20 acres of overwintering habitat for bluegills and other fish species, which would contribute to enhancing the aquatic diversity in the 3,500-acre project area.
The project is located within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and is part of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program. The program is a multi-agency, multi-district plan that restores aquatic habit along the river, said Tom Novak, project management.
“Partnerships are great,” Novak said. “Everyone brings a little bit to the table, and it really makes for a better project.”
Due largely to an early spring thaw and no flooding, the 2015 construction season for the Harpers Slough project yielded the construction of three new islands, two of which will serve to protect existing islands. More than 170,000 cubic yards of sand and fine materials and 25,000 tons of rock were placed this season.
“We really couldn’t have expected better construction conditions than we did this year,” Novak said. “To be able to do this work in the river, up here, from April to mid-October, is very rare.”
Depending on weather conditions, Novak said he hopes an additional three islands will be constructed in 2016. The final islands should be constructed in 2017 with the project scheduled to be completed by 2019.
The program emphasizes habitat rehabilitation and enhancement projects and long-term resource monitoring. Project component includes dredging backwater areas and channels, constructing dikes, creating and stabilizing islands and controlling side channel flows and water levels. Once the project is completed, the project will be turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who manages the refuge. Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program 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 resources department in IIllinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin and the public.