Huddled around a small conference table at the Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Annada, Mo., March 4, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the public discussed a draft plan to improve the wetland ecosystem of the entire 3,750-acre refuge.
Part of the Corps’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program, the draft plan is under public review until March 12. Benefits of the proposed plan include restoration of native wetland plants, improved floodplain connectivity, decreased habitat fragmentation, and improved water delivery and drainage achieved by degrading interior berms; constructing a levee setback, water control structures and a pump station; restoring historic river meanders and planting floodplain trees and other wetland plants.
“This is the first Upper Mississippi River Restoration habitat project proposing to construct a setback levee on the Mississippi River,” Dr. Kat McCain, St. Louis District ecologist, said. “This will help connect the Wildlife Refuge to the Mississippi River and allow fish and other aquatic species access into the refuge. It will increase the overall health of not only the refuge, but the entire Mississippi River system.”
Once complete, the proposed project will mimic the historic seasonal flooding and drying cycles required to provide food and habitat resources to fish and wildlife.
“It is an overall restoration of the lands that will allow the refuge to reach its full potential,” said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Jason Wilson, refuge manager.
The USFWS partnered with the Corps through the development of the project plan. All proposed project features are located on Federally-owned lands managed by the USFWS. Upon completion, the project is expected to decrease the operation and maintenance costs incurred by the USFWS.
The partner organizations are seeking public review and comments until March 12. Comments can be mailed to the St. Louis District Corps of Engineers, Attn: Environmental Planning Section (PD-P, McCain), 1222 Spruce St., St. Louis, Mo., 63103. The plan can be reviewed at www.mvs.usace.army.mil/missions/programsprojectmanagement/plansreports.aspx.
The Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge project is one component of the Corps’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration program. In the last 25 years, the program has restored more than 100,000 acres of aquatic habitat on the Upper Mississippi River, with more than 8,000 acres under restoration in the St. Louis District to date.
The program, said Brian Markert, St. Louis District’s program manager, does more than benefit the environment and river system.
“A healthy environment and river system is important for a healthy economy. The projects in the Upper Mississippi River Restoration program contribute significantly to the local and regional economy during construction. Long term, the projects bring invaluable recreation and tourism opportunities.”
For more on the UMRR, visit: http://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missions/EnvironmentalProtectionandRestoration/UpperMississippiRiverRestoration.aspx.