Dignitaries visit Beaver Island Rehabilitation Project 

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

National, regional and local dignitaries visited the Beaver Island Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project (HREP) on April 11 to celebrate this successful environmental rehabilitation project. The $13.6M project was funded by the Army Corps of Engineers Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program (UMRR) and located in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Michael Connor, and Executive Officer for the Assistant Secretary’s Office, Colonel Sattinger, were national representatives. Rock Island District Commander Colonel Jesse Curry, UMRR Regional Program Manager Marshall Plumley, Upper Mississippi River Environmental Science Center’s Director Mark Gaikowski, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Regional Director Chuck Traxler were Regional representatives.

Local participants included staff from the Rock Island District Corps of Engineers, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Beaver Island is one of the largest and oldest islands on the Upper Mississippi River extending 4.5 river miles and contains 2,000 acres. It survived glaciers and was home to Native Americans. European settlers arrived in the early 1800’s and it became a thriving community of farmers and river lovers. The island contained several deep backwater lakes and a rolling topography with a diverse forest.

Completion of the lock and dam system in 1939 was the beginning of the end for permanent residents on Beaver Island. Deeper water levels enhanced commercial navigation but eventually flooded out residents, killed many trees and filled in lakes with sediment. The Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service began purchasing the flooded properties in the early 1940’s.

The Beaver Island HREP construction started in 2019 with a goal to re-establish the island’s diverse environmental qualities. The lakes were deepened for fisheries habitat and the dredged material was placed along the bank line to increase topography that would lessen the impacts of future floods. The island’s forest is being improved by removing low quality trees and planting thousands of native trees and pollinator shrubs on the material placement sites and within the existing forest.

Rock protection was placed in erosional areas including a chevron at the head of Albany Island and along its entire main river channel shoreline. Some areas of rock were also constructed to provide habitat for native mussels. Construction is scheduled to be completed this year.

Our local communities are fortunate to benefit from other active HREP projects. Steamboat Island (Princeton IA) is in Stage I construction ($8.8M) to restore habitat located eight miles south of Beaver Island. Lower Pool 13 (Clinton IA) has completed planning for Phase I and has started Phase II planning. Pool 12 Forestry (Galena IL) and Pool 13 Green Island (IA) are in advanced planning stages. Upper Pool 13 (Buffalo Lake, Savanna IL) is on the future project list.

Past HREP projects that have been completed in our area include: Brown’s Lake in 1991, Potter’s Marsh in 1996, Spring Lake and Princeton Wildlife Area in 1999, Pleasant Creek in 2003 and Pool 12 Overwintering (Galena IL) in 2021. The Upper Mississippi River Restoration program is the most beneficial habitat rehabilitation and enhancement program ever conducted on our treasured Upper Mississippi River.

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is the most visited refuge in the United States. The refuge extends 261 miles along the Upper Mississippi River from Wabasha, MN. to Princeton, IA, protecting and preserving habitat for migratory birds, fish, and a variety of other wildlife.

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