The Beaver Island Habitat Restoration and Enhancement project is progressing slowly. Mississippi River floodwaters initially delayed the project for several months, extending through mid-summer. September rains have again flooded the area, resulting in delays, so construction has been extended for one year with a projected end date of January 2021.
Rock work has been completed on Beaver Island and Albany Island. The rock closing structure on the Upper Cut inlet along Beaver Slough is completed and prevents river currents that carry silt and mud from flowing into the interior lakes.
The rock chevron at the head of Albany Island is completed and will protect it from river currents that cause severe erosion. Riprap has been placed along the east shoreline of Albany Island to protect it from wind and wave action. Gravel substrate will be added to the riprap to enhance habitat for an existing mussel bed. Many of the trees along Albany Island’s east shoreline have fallen into the river due to erosion.
Excavation of deep water channels has started at the south inlet to Beaver Island, with material being placed on both east and west banks of the shoreline. Barges are being used as a berm along the shoreline instead of an earthen bank. The barges were filled with water to sink them to the bottom and the excavated material is being placed behind the barges.
Upon completion of material placement, the barges will be dewatered and floated off the area. The areas of placed material will be several feet higher in topography, thus allowing them to be planted with hard mast trees that would not otherwise survive at the lower elevation.
All public access is restricted within 200 yards of workers or equipment. This safety precaution is a short-term impact for the many years of increased habitat benefits.
Excavation of sediment from the interior lakes has started at Stewart Lake and will be followed by Blue Bell, Sand Burr and Hulziger. Due to extra funding coming available, excavation will now extend into the Lower Lake, which was not in the original plan. This project is funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Upper Mississippi River Restoration program and is one of 56 large scale habitat restoration projects completed or in construction under this program.
The next Upper Mississippi River Restoration project currently in planning is Steamboat Island, located eight miles south of Beaver Island. This project will be similar to Beaver Island with goals to diversify the habitat including timber stand improvement in the Wapsipinicon River bottoms, improve overwintering habitat for fish and the protection of Steamboat Island from erosion.
Flood waters have deposited large amounts of sediment (mostly sand) in the Mississippi River main channel and resulted in several commercial barge groundings due to shallow water. Over one million cubic yards of sediment is currently identified to be removed from the main channel in Pools 11-22 to provide for the 9-foot depth needed for commercial navigation.