By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON -- Nearly 100 people gathered Wednesday to learn the fate of a historic piece of Clinton property and one of the Mississippi River’s largest islands -- Beaver Island.
The section of land resting on the Mississippi River between Clinton and Albany, Ill., could undergo a complete restoration project, but first, representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Upper Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Refuge and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources wanted to hear the stories of those 100 concerned and curious guests.
“What can we do at Beaver Island to make the habitat better?” asked Corps of Engineers project study manager Monique Savage. “That’s why we have you guys here tonight. To tell us historically what was there, or what you’ve seen change over the years. We really want that input from you guys. You’re the ones using it. I need your input, your eyes and your ears.”
Robert Betsinger, a native of Clinton, was the first to stand up and tell his story of Beaver Island as he presented a 1905 map belonging to his great-grandfather. The map displayed the entire city of Clinton as well as a much larger image of Beaver Island than as it sits now.
Betsinger’s great-grandfather was one of several people who owned property on the stretch of land nestled in the main channel of the Mississippi, a portion of the property that is now owned by the federal government.
In order for the Corps of Engineers to move forward with the project on the federally owned property, they first need to establish a level of interest, another purpose of Wednesday’s public meeting.
“Because it’s a Corps project, we have to justify to the federal government, to the people of the nation, why do a project at Beaver Island,” said Savage during a short informational presentation. “One of the key points of tonight’s meeting. There has to be a federal interest to do this project.”
Generating the interest and need is the first step. What follows is a series of reviews that will look at taking an inventory of the wildlife population, level of sediment developing at the island and a series of project options before even beginning the actual hands-on portion of the revitalization.
While Savage and other environmental experts are encouraged that the project will generate interest, they assured guests at Wednesday’s public meeting that if it is funded by the federal government, it will still take years until the project is underway.
“The planning process, the review process and the plans and the specifications is a long process to go through,” Savage said. “I don’t want you to walk away from this meeting thinking that next year a project will be built. It’s going to take a couple of years until we get through this whole entire process before it will finally be constructed.”