The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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March 7, 2014

Waning winter weather

CLINTON — Spring is on its way and while most Clinton residents are ready to see the flowers bloom, it could mean some major changes to the region’s ecosystem.

Temperatures are expected to rise in the next few months and with that rise the Mighty Mississippi will begin to thaw and the heavy doses of snow will begin to melt, meaning a heightened potential for flooding.

To prepare for the inevitable rise in water levels, Lock and Dam 13 Lockmaster John Mueller said he and his team will be ready for the thaw well before the river is.

“It depends how fast everything melts but, the lock will be ready to go before the river is ready to go,” Mueller said.

In order to ensure they are ready, the US Army Corps of Engineers at Lock and Dam 13 must begin the thaw process for the lock as well. Currently the lock is frozen but by using a large air compressor to break up the ice and get water flowing through again, Mueller and his crew are able to defrost the lock much faster than Mother Nature.

But, the river itself is an unpredictable force.

Typically by this time of year the river has already begun to thaw but because of unseasonably cold temperatures throughout the winter and into March, that process has been delayed.

“You would hope to see it start thawing by now but this year is an extreme case,” Mueller said. “So, we’ll just have to see how this year all plays out.”

Because the river’s thaw has been delayed the region’s wildlife is also being affected.

Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge biological science technician Eric Tomasovic said he has seen significant changes to the natural schedule of the region’s wildlife in response to that late thaw.

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