Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program: Harpers Slough, Pool 9, Iowa Habitat Restoration

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published April 12, 2017
Updated: March 30, 2022
Resident engineer Scott Baker, center, during the weekly progress meeting and site visit  Aug. 11, 2015, for the Harper’s Slough project. The Harper’s Slough Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project, located within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, was planned and designed under the authority of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program. It will protect five existing islands and construct an additional seven islands using material from the backwater and main channel. 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.

Resident engineer Scott Baker, center, during the weekly progress meeting and site visit Aug. 11, 2015, for the Harper’s Slough project. The Harper’s Slough Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project, located within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, was planned and designed under the authority of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program. It will protect five existing islands and construct an additional seven islands using material from the backwater and main channel.

Purpose

Assess the extent of damage of islands and habitat and determine repairs necessary for the Harpers Slough Project in Pool 9. Construction was completed in 2017; however, two consecutive years of high water (including record levels in 2019) prevented plantings from becoming established and caused significant breaches in three islands. Island loss led to material deposition in the backwaters, resulting in less productive habitat for fish and wildlife and the project not achieving the benefits originally anticipated.

Location

The project 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.

Description

The proposed project goals include protecting and restoring island complexes that would enhance quality habitat for native and desirable species by reducing suspended solid concentrations and reducing wind fetch. Project features may include island construction, shoreline protection rock mounds and dredging.

Status

A construction contract was awarded in September 2014; work was completed in August 2017. Island tree plantings were initiated in 2018 and completed in 2020. As a result of high flows in 2020, damage occurred to the project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) requested repairs before formally accepting the project and assuming operation and maintenance responsibilities. As a result of necessary repairs, a letter report and plans and specifications were completed in January 2021. A repair contract was awarded on May 19, 2021, to Water Works Dock and Boat Lifts, Inc. for $2,351,937.49. Construction began on July 19, 2021 and the project is expected to be physically complete by December 2022.

Authority

Congress originally authorized the UMRR Program in Section 1103 of the 1986 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) (Public Law 99-662), codified at 33 U.S.C. 652. Section 307 of WRDA 2020 (Public Law 116‒260) increased the authorized program funding to a combined $55 million annually.

The Corps will plan and design the project as part of a cooperative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Wisconsin and Iowa Departments of Natural Resources and local interests.

Funding

Project design and construction costs were 100% federal because the project is located on lands managed as a national wildlife refuge. Operation and maintenance costs are 100% federal and a responsibility of the USFWS.

Construction Funding to Date                  $2,350,000

Estimated Total Construction Cost          $2,500,000