In September, the St. Paul District conducted an on-site training event with federal and state partners to look at past and ongoing island projects to determine the best path forward for restoration projects as part of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration program, or UMRR.
Participants included representatives from the Corps and agency representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as from the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa departments of natural resources.
“Today is a training exercise,” said Scott Baker, Winona resident engineer. “We are seeing some typical projects to talk about lessons learned, what worked well and what didn’t work well, so that knowledge can be incorporated into future projects.”
The team of agency representatives visited Conway Lake and Harpers Slough restoration projects, in Pool 9 of the Mississippi River, which were completed in 2022. The team also visited McGregor Lake Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project, an active construction project.
“These exercises are important because we’re getting more money for island projects, and we have more projects now in various phases than we’ve ever had before,” said Baker.
Baker explained that these projects are important for wildlife.
“The river is losing habitat at a very fast rate. The islands are disappearing, which had lead to increasingly turbulent water and light can’t get through to help the vegetation grow. That habitat and vegetation is particularly important for migratory birds,” said Baker.
UMRR started in 1986 when environmentalists filed a lawsuit when Lock and Dam 27 was built, wanting environmental work done on the river. The compromise started the Environmental Management Program, which would become UMRR. It was authorized for $200 million over a 20-year period and was reauthorized in 2006.
UMRR ensures the coordinated development and enhancement of the Upper Mississippi River system with a primary emphasis on habitat restoration projects and resource monitoring. In the 36-year history of the program, more than 55 habitat projects benefiting approximately 100,000 acres from Minneapolis to St. Louis, have been completed.
“I enjoy these projects in particular because you can see tangible results for future generations to enjoy the wildlife,” said Baker.