Project slated to enhance Beaver Island's habitat

Beaver Island is located in the Mississippi River near Clinton's Archer Daniels Midland plant. Rachael Keating/Clinton Herald

CLINTON — A final draft for a project to improve the habitat and other portions of Clinton's Beaver Island has been published.

Ed Britton, Savanna District Manager for the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, said the $20 million federal project will probably be the biggest one that has happened in Pool 14. Beaver Island is located behind Archer Daniels Midland in Clinton and is one of the largest islands on the Mississippi River.

"It is going to do all these great things. It's going to improve fisheries. It's going to improve diversity in the forest," Britton said.

The land that will be worked on in the project area is federally owned and all of the funding will come from federal dollars, according to an executive summary of the document. A full 150-page draft of the project has been released online.

The project area contains 1,678 acres on Beaver Island and has three major goals, according to the summary:

– Increasing year-round aquatic habitat diversity.

– Diversifying floodplain forest habitat on Beaver Island.

– Increasing structure and function of side-channel habitat for mussels.

"These lakes used to be 8 to 10 feet. They are less than a foot deep right now. There's a main channel that comes out that's called the upper cut that comes out of Beaver Slough, which is fast flowing, and a lot of water comes into there so a lot of silt and sediment comes through there," Britton said.

He said since all of that silt and sediment comes through, it has made the lakes almost uninhabitable for fish in the area, especially since they need quite a bit of room in the winter.

The project life is supposed to be 50 years, according to the document, and will include dredging the lakes to deepen those channels, using that dredged material to construct elevated berms, and planting hard mast trees. Other measures will include placing a rock closure structure on the island's upstream end to reduce the amount of silt and sediment that enters the channel and constructing a chevron and bank protection on Albany Island to halt erosion and create more area for mussels.

Britton said the current nondiversity of trees is a concern.

"The other thing that has happened, which is all of this area here, is that the forest has changed species since the lock and dam went in," Britton said. "It now floods a tremendous amount of the time, so the forest gets flooded, so now the species is dominant silver maple, so you've got silver maple covering most of this island."

Britton said the project has gone through quite a bit of planning and that over the last two years, every single alternative has been explored to come up with a project that meets cost-benefit analysis and does the most to help the habitat.

He said the project is slated to begin in 2018 and that it will likely be done in a few phases. Area residents can leave comments with Darron Niles, study manager with the Army Corps of Engineers, at (309) 794-5400 or darron.l.niles@usace.army.mil