The largest habitat restoration project ever constructed in Pool 14 is nearing the final planning stages for the Beaver Island Habitat Restoration and Enhancement project. Construction for this nearly $20 million project is scheduled to begin in summer 2018, pending funding availability through the Rock Island District of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The meeting held in Clinton on Feb. 21 provided the most recent opportunity for public input. As a result, the project moved one step closer to implementation with design specifications in the final review process. The primary goals are restoration of year round aquatic habitat within the interior lakes of Beaver Island, diversification of the forest community, and improving side channel habitat for fish and mussels.
The project covers the southern three-fourths of Beaver Island. These lands are within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and are federally owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Corps of Engineers. The project is funded by the Upper Mississippi River Restoration program, a Corps funded program that addresses ecological needs on the Upper Mississippi River System to improve its environmental health and to increase our understanding of its natural resources.
The restoration of deep water habitat within Beaver Island’s interior lakes is an important project feature. The deluge of spring and summer rains has added to the heavy silt loads being carried by the river. As swift moving water from the Mississippi River and Beaver Slough enter the calm backwater lakes, the silt settles to the bottom and fills the lakes with mud. Less than one inch of silt per year was normal in the past. We are now experiencing several inches of silt being deposited per year. Six to eight feet of mud need to be removed from these interior lakes to provide habitat for over-wintering fish that require low flows and oxygen rich water.
The project also must protect these interior lakes from future sedimentation. A primary source of silt comes from an inlet near the upstream end of Beaver Slough, called Upper Cut. Closing off this cut will significantly reduce the amount of sediment entering the backwater complex.