July 23, 2008
New Islands to Improve Quality of Mississippi River
By Ryan Stotts, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.
Jul. 23--BROWNSVILLE, Minn. -- The idea is a Mississippi River more like what it was before the locks and dams.
Water quality has been seriously inhibited, she said, after the river was significantly altered by the series of locks and dams installed in the 1930s and 1940s.
Before the lock system was in place, the area near Brownsville was dotted with islands. Most eroded away in when the dams deepened the river.
The islands being installed this summer aim to recreate some of what was lost, she said.
A total of five islands -- one on the Wisconsin side, four on the Minnesota side -- have been added in the river, said Jim Nissen, La Crosse district manager of the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
"This is a very large island," Nissen said, pointing to bulldozers working on a Minnesota side island labeled W2. "It's over a mile long. It's a 24-hour, six days-a-week project."
Crews already have pumped between 120,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of sand from nearby Crater Island that had been deposited from dredging, and a total of 210,000 cubic yards are expected to be used by the time the islands are completed in late September, he said.
This island building costs about $10 million, Nissen said, and two crews are working to add some special features, such as mud and sand flats and sand tips.
All of it is aimed at improving the quality of river habitat, he said.
It takes two crews, the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota Departments of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to make it happen.
It also takes a lot of equipment, such as bulldozers, barge buggies and excavators -- and one really long pipe to blow the sand.
Because of safety hazards, Crater Island is closed to the public, Nissen said, and the new islands are inaccessible while under construction.
"They're pumping sand 5 miles to build the islands," he said. "There's a lot of equipment, and it's dangerous, but folks have been very good about it."
Ryan Stotts can be reached at (608) 791-8446 or [email protected]
To see more of the La Crosse Tribune or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.lacrossetribune.com/.
Copyright (c) 2008, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.