The primary objective of this project is to protect, restore, or create resilient and diverse bottomland forests. The quality and extent of the unique forest and aquatic habitat in the Reno Bottoms project area has been declining over the past several decades. Human caused changes in hydrology, land use, and climate have increased water levels within the project area. Without action, the project area will continue to degrade. The quality of forest and aquatic habitat will decrease. Invasive grasses would expand into forests, limiting opportunities for smaller trees to grow and reducing habitat value. Additional loss of wetland habitat would adversely affect migrating waterbirds and songbirds who require the floodplain forest to stop and rest.
The 14,000-acre Reno Bottoms area is located within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (refuge) in Houston County, Minnesota, and Allamakee County, Iowa, and is in Pool 9 between river miles 671‒682. The area is bounded on the west by the Canadian Pacific railroad, on the east by the main Mississippi River navigation channel, on the north by the Lock and Dam 8 dike and on the south by the Upper Iowa River. The closest communities to the project area are New Albin, Iowa, and Reno, Minnesota.
Identification and evaluation of potential solutions to address the problems at Reno Bottoms is underway. Some potential actions to improve habitat include: forest plantings, soil placement to raise forest elevations, invasive species control, shoreline protection, improvements to backwater habitats, and side channel closure structures to lower water levels.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the planning phase in fiscal year 2019 and will complete a draft report in fiscal year 2022.
The Corps will plan and design the project as part of a cooperative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Minnesota and Iowa Departments of Natural Resources and local interests.
Project design and construction costs will be 100% federal because the project is located on lands managed as a national wildlife refuge. Operation and maintenance costs will be 100% federal, a responsibility of the USFWS.
Funding to Date $880,000
Estimated Total Project Cost $8,000,000